Lawsuit filed against Camden diocese hours after statute of limitations extended

David Madden
May 14, 2019 - 12:42 pm
Justin Hoffmann

David Madden/KYW Newsradio

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UPDATED: 1:30 p.m. 

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey’s first civil lawsuit against the Catholic church after Gov. Phil Murphy extended the civil statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims has been filed in Camden County Superior Court. It seeks damages from the church in the wake of five years of alleged abuse at the hands of a now deceased priest who served in 10 different parishes in South Jersey during his lifetime. 

Father Brendan Sullivan was removed from ministry in 2010 after admitting to abusing a boy in Atco. This suit, though, dates back to 1996, when Justin Hoffmann of Philadelphia was an altar boy at what was then St. James Parish in Ventnor. 

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The suit contends Father Brendan Sullivan groomed him for the abuse which went on for 5 years. 

"It was a friendship at first, and so I didn’t realize that it wasn’t a friendship. That’s not a healthy friendship. There isn’t a friendship between a 65- or 70-year-old priest and a 9-year-old boy," Hoffmann said.

Hoffmann, now a 29-year-old chef and Navy veteran, says he became cognizant of what occurred only recently in interactions with the gay community and other traumatized people.

"I found myself identifying with them more and more," he said, "and I think that was right in the wake of the whole #MeToo movement, which — I identify with those people and the claims that they make against the people that abused them."

The suit names the Diocese, what is now Holy Trinity Parish, and former Camden Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, now the bishop in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

The Camden Diocese, in a statement, did not mention the suit, but noted that Sullivan was removed from ministry quickly and today victims are offered therapy, while cases of alleged abuse are referred to law enforcement.