Man Sues Diocese of Ogdensburg and St. Joseph’s Church for Abuse

            (Plattsburgh, NY – June 15, 2020) According to Court documents filed in the Clinton County Supreme Court, a man identified as Anonymous GF has filed a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Diocese of Ogdensburg and St. Joseph’s Church in West Chazy, related to sexual abuse by Msgr. John M. Waterhouse that occurred when the man was an altar boy and parishioner from 1973 through 1978. 

      “Today is a life changing day for this man.  He no longer suffers in silence and shame.  This man has waited for years to be able to tell his story and seek justice for the sexual abuse he endured as an altar boy.  Today is the beginning of that journey,” stated the man’s Minneapolis Attorney, Patrick Noaker.

The case is filed under the New York Child Victims Act (CVA), which allows survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits for damages, no matter when the abuse occurred.  Idaho Attorney Leander James, who also represents the man, reported that “This case is being filed under the New York Child Victims Act, which opened the courtroom doors to victims of sexual abuse.  This law is especially important in child sexual abuse cases where the victims are children who can’t understand the impact of the abuse until well into adulthood.”

St. Joseph’s parish is in the Canadian border hamlet of West Chazy, in Clinton County, which is the northeastern-most county in New York.  St. Joseph is a small country church with a rectory immediately beside the church containing the living quarters for the priests.  At the time Plaintiff attended, approximately 100 parishioners attended mass on Sunday.  The Plaintiff was one of between 4 to 6 altar boys who served at St. Joseph’s. 

“This church should have been a place where children could safely gather and learn about living Godly lives of love and compassion.  Unfortunately, this abusive priest transformed St. Joseph’s into a place of confusion and pain for this boy.  He deserved better,” stated Melanie Slaughter Wolk, a Rochester-based attorney with the Trevett Cristo law firm, who also represents the Plaintiff.

Msgr. Waterhouse is not on the list of credibly accused priests on the Diocese of Ogdensburg website.  According to the Official Catholic Directory for 1973, Msgr. Waterhouse was assigned to St. Joseph’s parish as well as one of the Diocese of Ogdensburg Consultors and a Synodal Examiner.  Msgr. Waterhouse had a long career in the Diocese of Ogdensburg:

1945Ordained in Diocese of Ogdensburg. Assistant Pastor, St. Mary’s ChurchPotsdam, NY
1947Assistant Pastor, St. Alphonsus ChurchTupper Lake, NY
1947Studied canon law at Catholic University of AmericaWashington, D.C.
1950Assistant Pastor, St, Mary’s Cathedral and secretary of Diocese TribunalOgdensburg, NY
1951Assistant Chancellor for DioceseOgdensburg, NY
1957Chancellor of the DioceseOgdensburg, NY
1959Pastor, St. Raymond ChurchRaymondville, NY
1968Pastor, St. Patrick’s ChurchBrasher Falls, NY
1971Pastor, St. Joseph’s ChurchWest Chazy, NY
1978Pastor, St. Anthony of Padua ChurchNewton Falls, NY
 Pastor, St. Hubert’s ChurchStar Lake, NY
1984St. Paul ChurchBlack River, NY
1986Resigned due to ill health. Pastor emeritus, St. PaulBlack River, NY
1995December 28, 1995 passed away 

Patrick Noaker is an attorney licensed to practice law in New York, New Jersey, Minnesota and Missouri, with offices in Minneapolis, New York and Chicago who has represented hundreds of survivors of sexual assault across the country.  Patrick is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and has won multiple jury verdicts and settlements exceeding a million dollars.

Leander James is a founding shareholder of the law firm of James, Vernon & Weeks P.A. He believes legal empowerment transforms lives, and he has committed his career to empowering his clients. His civil litigation and trial practice are focused on obtaining large settlements and verdicts. He helps sexual abuse survivors and the catastrophically injured reclaim their lives. Mr. James was a principal architect of the $166 million Northwest Jesuit sexual abuse settlement that included non-monetary terms for protection of children. His current cases include Catholic abuse cases in New York, Hawaii, Minnesota and other states. He testifies before legislatures, and he has assisted in drafting key legislation, including New York State’s Child Victims Act. His appellate cases have established precedent. His practice is national in scope.

Melanie Slaughter Wolk is a partner with Trevett Cristo in Upstate New York.  Melanie has been practicing in New York State for almost 25 years.  Her trial experience is vast as she has represented individuals in all aspects of civil litigation throughout her career.  It is her belief that the legal system should be utilized by sexual abuse survivors to right the wrongs they endured during their youth.