Former Damien students file lawsuit for alleged sex abuse

Former Damien students file lawsuit for alleged sex abuse
Published: Mar. 20, 2013 at 7:19 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 22, 2013 at 8:33 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new civil lawsuit accuses a former Damien Memorial School chaplain of sexually assaulting two former students in the early 1980's. Father Gerald Funcheon worked at the school from 1982 to 1984. He is accused of molesting the alleged victims, identified as John Roe No. 9 and John Roe No. 10, multiple times.

The plaintiffs' lawyers are also representing another former student, Kory Oakland, who filed a sex abuse lawsuit last year. The attorneys released excerpts of Funcheon's testimony filmed under oath in September 2012 for that case. Attorney Jeff Anderson asked him about reports that there may have been roughly 50 victims over several decades during assignments across the country.

Q: "Do you think you remember the numbers of kids, those are people, youth under the age of 18, with whom you engaged in some sexual conduct or contact?"

A: "Over my lifetime?"

Q: "While a priest."

A: "Yeah, I would say a dozen."

Q: "There are some reports where it's far in excess of that by your own report. Do you think you might be underestimating that number?"

A: "Wow, I -- I couldn't count 'em up. I'll go -- I don't know. I'll go 18. I -- I don't -- I can't give you a number on this. Okay?"

"He demonstrates the mind of the molester. He admits a few things but denies, minimizes and blames others," said Anderson.

Oakland, a tattoo artist, initially kept his identity a secret, but finally decided to come forward. He alleges that Funcheon sexually abused him during a retreat in 1983.

"It mainly affected my faith with the church, my trust of power, authority, the people that are supposed to be guiding you," said Oakland.

Oakland's parents said they contacted the school the next day.

"Within a week I believe he was gone from the school. The church just said that he was called away on God's duty to another school and that was it. Gone. Everything was just forgotten," said Oakland.

According to Anderson, Funcheon managed to avoid jail time because his superiors quietly moved him to assignments in other states.

"Those in charge over him kept his crimes secret and among themselves, and because they protected him and covered it up and concealed it, he never got reported to the law enforcement," Anderson said.

Funcheon, the Congregation of Christian Brothers of Hawaii which runs the school, and the Roman Catholic Church of Hawaii are among the defendants. The Diocese of Honolulu declined to comment. A spokesman for Damien said the school didn't know about the lawsuit and that top administrators were on the mainland. Last year, school officials said that faculty were now fingerprinted and screened, and took courses on sex abuse.

According to Anderson, Funcheon is receiving treatment for offenders in a Missouri facility run by the Catholic Church.

Q: "You now know that what you did to those kids then and has been described under the law, the secular law as criminal sexual conduct?"

A: "I do now."

Three of Funcheon's victims on the mainland reportedly shared a $1.7 million settlement in 2009 with six other victims of other priests.

A Hawaii law passed last year opens a window which allows adult victims of child sex abuse to file civil suits until April 2014.

Statement from Bishop Larry Silva, Bishop of Honolulu (March 20, 2013)

"A videotaped interview with Father Gerald Funcheon, in which he is asked about his sexual encounters with minors over a long period of time including a time at Damien Memorial School in Honolulu - has been released by Attorneys Mark Fr. Gallagher and Jeff Anderson. His testimony is very disturbing and sad, as is any story regarding the sexual abuse of a minor. I pray that the publication of this video will not retraumatize victims, who are trying to find healing for the criminal actions that were done to them. The Diocese of Honolulu continues to be committed to active programs of screening and education, so that no minor will be in danger of abuse from a clergyman or Church worker. We pray for those who have already been abused and invite them, as we have for years, to contact our Victim Assistance Coordinator, Edwina Reyes, at (808) 524-4673 so that we can accompany them in the healing process."

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