A former altar boy at a North Philadelphia parish today filed a lawsuit accusing a priest of molesting him for three years in the 1990s and blaming church officials for not preventing the abuse.
Filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, the claim by a 28-year-old Philadelphia man said the Rev. William Ayres sexually abused him in the church and rectory at Incarnation of Our Lord parish, as well as at other spots.
The lawsuit names the man only as "John Doe 187" but his lawyers say Ayres and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have been told his identity.
Ayres, 39, has been suspended from active ministry since a similar allegation from an unnamed accuser last November. He did not respond to a message left for him Wednesday afternoon at the Upper Darby home for clergy where he lives.
Donna Farrell, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, declined to comment on the allegations.
The lawsuit marks at least the ninth in Philadelphia from an alleged clergy sex-abuse victim since February, when four current and former archdiocesan priests were arrested and a grand jury report criticized church leaders for their handling of abuse complaints.
Unlike the other lawsuits, this involves claims that appear to fall within the state's criminal statute of limitations. Lawyers for the student say he has been cooperating with prosecutors.
"There is a criminal investigation going on that he's spoken to the D.A. about," said Daniel Monahan, one of his attorneys.
Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Seth Williams said the office would not confirm or discuss any pending investigations.
Marci Hamilton, a lawyer for the former Incarnation altar boy, said she was not sure if his complaint or another launched the investigation into Ayers.
According to the lawsuit, the student said he told the pastor at Incarnation last fall that Ayers had abused him, and that priest allegedly told him Ayres "was already under investigation and there had been reports filed before (his) abuse had occurred."
Ayres was a seminarian when he began serving in 1996 at Incarnation, a parish along North 5th Street, according to the lawsuit and previous statements by the archdiocese. He was ordained in 1999, and remained at Incarnation until 2002.
He later served at St. Katharine Drexel parish in Chester, as director of the Office for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, and as coordinator of the Laotian Apostolate.
The lawsuit says the abuse had lasting impact on the former altar boy's life, hurting his job prospects and leading him to seek medical and psychological treatment. His lawyers declined to elaborate.
The suit accuses the priest and church leaders of child sexual abuse, negligence, and conspiracy and seeks damages of at least $50,000.
Citing the grand jury report, the lawsuit says the archdiocese had a history of protecting sexually abusive priests and should have known that Ayres "had a sexual interest in children."