The New York State Child Victims Act took effect Wednesday, allowing all alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue over the next year.
Over 30 lawsuits were filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester on the first day alone, including one from Peter Saracino of Phelps.
Saracino said his family was very active in the Catholic Church in the 1960s. He even had a cousin who was studying to be a priest.
When Saracino was a child, he and his family often visited a former monastery in Geneva. He said that’s where he often went swimming and got ice cream alone with priests. On one of those occasions, he said that he was raped.
Saracino is unsure whether the priest is still alive, but he said he tracked him down in the mid-1990s, wrote him a letter, and talked to him on the phone.
“I said, ‘The people in Geneva that you come back and visit, do they know the kind of person you really are?’ And for the first time there was silence,” said Saracino. “ ‘Do you know you’re a murderer of souls?’ And there was silence and he dropped the phone, then he hung up.”
Jeff Anderson is representing Saracino. He said his law firm expects to file more suits against any person or organization involved in these accusations.
Scarcino said that in the church, it's the most loyal parishioners that are at risk.
“The people most at risk were the most devout Catholics,” said Scarcino. “They’re the ones letting the priests put their children to bed while they’re making coffee because he’s so esteemed, while he’s up raping the children.”
A statement from the Diocese of Rochester said they are reserving comment on specific cases out of respect for the legal process. They said are making efforts to heal and restore victims and create a safe environment.