Of the 21 alleged victims, 19 say Hanley abused them in their youths while he was a priest at St. Josephs Church during the 1970s and 1980s.
Hanley has been the focus of more than 20 abuse complaints since pedophilia openly began to plague the Roman Catholic Church in 2002.
The plaintiffs lawyer, Gregory Gianforcaro of Chester, said Hanley was not named in the suit because he has been cooperating with the plaintiffs. Last year, Hanley voluntarily gave up his clerical collar after being faced with the numerous allegations of abuse.
Also named in the lawsuit are the Rev. Thomas Rainforth, formerly of St. Josephs, for allegedly assaulting a youth in the 1970s and Deacon Carlos Guzmon, who allegedly sodomized a young boy on a field trip sponsored by Our Lady of Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church of Dover.
Last year, a diocese review board ruled that Rainforth did not commit an act of sexual abuse. Guzmons case is pending while he has been ordered to cease any priestly functions until the diocese decides on his case.
Steidler, currently of Virginia, said he escaped physical sexual abuse. He said it is a reason why he finds it less difficult than others to talk openly about the abuse he underwent. But wounds still run deep for Steidler.
Steidler was allegedly abused by Hanley beginning in the summer of 1976, when Steidler was 14. Steidler said the abuse lasted until he confronted Hanley at the age of 16.
Steidler said Hanley was grooming kids for abuse, and that he himself was definitely in the priests scopes. Steidler said Hanley forced him to view pornography and made light of Steidlers guilt concerning his own pubescent lust. He also said the priest gave him beer and wine.
I can tell you that it created tremendous anxiety for me, said Steidler.
Steidler said that to this day he still has problems with authority figures and is often agitated because of what Hanley subjected him to.
Its sexual abuse, but its a lot less physical and a lot less traumatic than many of the other plaintiffs had to go through, and thats why Im able to talk about this publicly, said Steidler.
Steidler said he is hoping for a monetary settlement where the diocese of Paterson will pay and not a single parish will have to dole out any cash. He wants the diocese to take full responsibility for the actions of the priests it should have been monitoring.
Steidler first came out about the abuse at a meeting of Healing Our Survivors Together, a Mendham-based organization aiding people who have been victimized by pedophile priests, in April of 2002.
Steidler said he got the impression from Hanley that by the age of 40 everyone is sexually twisted up.
William Crane, formerly of Mendham and currently of Oregon, is another alleged victim of Hanley. He said he was sexually abused from the age of 11 until the age of 15, during the mid to late 1970s to the early 1980s.
I no longer live in Mendham because of what had taken place, said Crane.
Crane said he felt compelled to run away from it all.
His ultimate goal with the lawsuit is to have Rodimer acknowledge the seriousness of what has taken place.
Roberto Acevado was allegedly abused by Guzman when he was 12 years old in the late 1970s at a weekend retreat sponsored by Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. He said he was sodomized by the deacon.
I dont want this to happen to any other children, said Acevado.
Acevado said Guzman molested other children after him, and he wishes he had spoken up sooner so as to prevent the further abuse.
One alleged Hanley victim, Mark Serrano, formerly of Mendham, expressed disgust at the fact that Hanley was sent to work in a hospital in Albany, N.Y., even after Serranos allegations surfaced in the late 1980s. He spoke at the press conference.
Many of the specific acts of sexual abuse are quite horrific and far exceed mere fondling, said Gianforcaro. These acts include, but are not limited to, forced masturbation and oral rape.
The lawsuit also alleges negligence and gross negligence on the part of Rodimer, Rainforth, St. Josephs, the diocese of Paterson, and other churches and clergy members.
The suit states that higher-ups in the church should have been aware of the molestation by Hanley and the other clergy members.
The suit further alleges that the defendants tried to cover up the scandal, putting their images above the rights of the plaintiffs. According to the suit, there was a conspiracy to commit acts and violate plaintiffs rights.
The suit alleges that the defendants tried to mislead the plaintiffs in order to protect the priests.
The suit alleges negligent infliction of emotional distress, breach of duty to act as temporary guardians of the minors who were allegedly assaulted, and invasion of privacy.
The suit alleges intentional failure to supervise, as well.
The suit requests an unspecified amount of money for punitive damages.
At this point, Im not going to speculate on any dollar amount, said Gianforcaro.
Gianforcaro said he is seeking cultural change with the hope that sexual abuse on the part of the clergy will end.
Steidler said he is hoping sexual abuse will be in everyones consciousness.
Serrano is not a plaintiff in the case but is a leading voice in the fight against pedophile priests through the nationwide organization Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Serrano spoke at the press conference.
What I fear most, and what Ive always feared most, is that Father Hanley couldnt keep track of his victims, said Serrano.
Serrano filed a lawsuit in 1986 against Hanley and the diocese of Paterson. He settled the lawsuit in 1987.
According to a press release, the diocese is not looking to settle the new suit like it did Serranos.
We have not yet had the opportunity to view the details of the lawsuit filed today, said the statement. However, we intend to defend this suit vigorously.
Any one of the 21 plaintiffs potentially could severely impact the diocese, said Gianforcaro.
Despite the statement by the diocese, Gianforcaro said he is hoping there will be no litigation.
Gianforcaro said should more victims come out of the woodwork, he will share all the information he has on the case with whatever attorney the victims choose.