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Clergy abuse victim pushes NY Archdiocese to stand for all survivors

Lex Filipowski a child sex-abuse survivor, on Tuesday asked the Archdiocese of New York to take responsibility for assaults made by priests from religious orders.
Lex Filipowski a child sex-abuse survivor, on Tuesday asked the Archdiocese of New York to take responsibility for assaults made by priests from religious orders. Photo Credit: Howard Simmons

A church sex abuse survivor is asking New York’s top Catholic official to help all victims of religious officials.

Leonard "Lex" Filipowski and his attorney, Patrick Noaker, delivered a letter Tuesday to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who launched the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program in 2016 to aid and compensate victims of sexual abuse. However, Filipowski says he and others like himself are barred from receiving compensation.

Filipowski was abused as an altar boy by the Rev. George Boxelaar, a late priest from the Carmelite religious order who has been accused of abuse by more than 25 people. However, the compensation program, which Dolan has said he hopes brings "a measure of peace and healing to those who have suffered," only covers priests and deacons within the archdiocese — not priests from other religious orders.

“It’s not right,” Filipowski said. “We were abused by priests who were working inside the Catholic archdiocese churches; the archdiocese oversaw them and allowed them into their churches.”

Filipowski pointed out that Pope Francis is a Jesuit priest. "If he can be the pope, it’s only right that the victims of clergy from religious orders be involved in the settlement options within the archdiocese.

“Rape from a priest from a religious order is no different than rape from a priest of the archdiocese," he said.

Lex Filipowski, right, with his attorney, Patrick Noaker, at the Archdiocese of New York's headquarters in Manhattan on Tuesday.
Lex Filipowski, right, with his attorney, Patrick Noaker, at the Archdiocese of New York’s headquarters in Manhattan on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Filipowski has been fighting for justice since 1991, when he brought it to the church’s attention he was a victim of abuse. 

“I told them I was abused and by who, and I was given the answer of, ‘The reason he did that was because he didn’t know how to express his emotions,’” said Filipowski. “I thought it was ridiculous. The church condemns homosexuality, but protects pedophiles; it’s so upside down. Not only from prosecution, but from moving these priests from church to church, only to victimize more children, again and again.”

After getting nowhere, in 2002 Filipowski went to his local paper and told them what happened. He was the first victim to step forward; at least 24 men later admitted they too, were abused by Boxelaar. 

Filipowski’s lawyer, Noaker, who represents victims of priest abuse, contends that up to a third of church abuse victims in the Archdiocese of New York were assaulted by clergy belonging to a religious order.

Filipowski didn’t get to hand-deliver his letter to Dolan, but walked out of the Archdiocese feeling re-victimized.

“It didn’t feel like a church at all — it felt like prison,” Filipowski said. “No warmth, no love, no compassion whatsoever.”

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