More than a dozen women have recently come forward alleging that a former priest and pastor of a Maspeth church sexually abused them during a nearly 20-year time period.
As first reported in the Daily News, the 15 women claim that Father Adam Prochaski, who served Holy Cross Church between 1969 and 1994 and taught at the now-defunct parish school, sexually abused them between the years of 1973 and 1994.
They’re being represented by attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represented sex abuse victims in Boston and was portrayed in the 2015 film “Spotlight” about the Boston Globe’s award-winning investigation into sexual abuse committed by clergymen.
Prochaski’s alleged victims were between the ages of 5 and 16 years old at the time of the alleged abuse, Garabedian told QNS in a conference call on Wednesday. It is further alleged that the sexual abuse took place inside the Holy Cross Church, in the rectory, in the school, in Prochaski’s car, and even inside the homes of some of the alleged victims.
“Where were the supervisors? Why weren’t they protecting the children?” Garabedian asked. “It is time for the Diocese of Brooklyn and Bishop [Nicholas] DiMarzio to step up to the plate and answer these questions.”
Linda Porcaro, a former teacher at Holy Cross who taught at the school from 1986 to 1991, was the first one at the school to take these allegations seriously after seven of Prochaski’s alleged victims alerted her to the abuse near the end of school year in 1990.
“I was very upset,” Porcaro told QNS. “I immediately went to the principal.”
The principal proceeded to tell Porcaro that everyone knew about Prochaski and basically laughed it off: “They thought it was a joke,” she said.
Porcaro then told another principal about the allegations and the diocese was informed, but not much was done after that, she noted. She even confronted Prochaski himself about the allegations, but he also just laughed at the accusations.
“Based on my experience, this is only the tip of the iceberg,” Garabedian said, indicating that there could be hundreds of victims that Prochaski may have abused. “Father Adam had a free reign of sexually abusing children.”
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens noted that Prochaski is no longer a priest, as he left the priesthood in 1994 after the first allegations were reported to the diocese, which subsequently contacted the Queens District Attorney’s office.
“Our zero tolerance policy ensures that any allegations of abuse go directly to law enforcement authorities,” said Carolyn Erstad, a diocese spokesperson. “We continue to work for the protection of all children.”
The 15 women that Prochaski allegedly abused now reside across the United States and are between the ages of 37 and 50, Garabedian said. This puts them past the current age (23 years old) where childhood victims of sexual abuse can bring criminal cases against their abusers due to the New York state statute of limitations.
The Childhood Victims Act (CVA), a piece of legislation sponsored by Queens elected officials such as Assemblyman Mike Miller of Glendale and former Assemblywoman Margaret Markey of Maspeth, looks to expand the time frame when victims of childhood sexual abuse can bring their abusers to court to their 28th birthday, and up to their 50th birthday to bring civil action against their abuser.
However, the CVA has been stalled in the New York Senate for years, and was left on the table once again after this year’s legislative session ended in June.
According to Garabedian, the women are now considering participating in the diocese’s recently established “Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program,” which provides financial compensation to the victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy.
“They do not have to accept the monetary award if they do not want to; they can wait to see if statute of limitation changes in New York,” he said. The women are also in the process of reporting these allegations to the District Attorney, if they have not done so already, Garabedian added.