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Late priest from Lake Luzerne parish among those named in child sex abuse lawsuits

Late priest from Lake Luzerne parish among those named in child sex abuse lawsuits

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LAKE LUZERNE — A late priest that served at a church in Lake Luzerne was named in one of 52 sex abuse lawsuits filed Monday against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.

The Rev. Charles A. Gaffigan, who retired from Holy Mother and Child Parish in 2011, is accused of sexually abusing a minor from 1992 to about 1994 at what was then Holy Infancy Church in Lake Luzerne, according to a news release from Jeff Anderson & Associates. The law firm has filed a total of 74 lawsuits against the diocese.

Gaffigan died in 2015 after battling cancer.

Gaffigan was appointed to serve as pastor of what was then Holy Infancy Church in Lake Luzerne in 1991, according to his obituary. In 2003, he picked up the responsibility for Immaculate Conception Church in Corinth. The churches ultimately merged in 2009 to form Holy Mother and Child Parish. He retired as pastor in 2011, but continued to fill in throughout the diocese.

Gaffigan died on April 19, 2015, at the age of 79 at the Gateway House of Peace in Ballston Spa.

He also served as associate pastor in St. Michael’s in South Glens Falls in the 1970s and at St. Mary’s in Glens Falls in the early 1980s.

Three new lawsuits were also brought against Gary Mercure, who was sentenced to more than 25 years in prison in Massachusetts on child sex abuse charges. Mercure served at Our Lady of Annunciation Church in Queensbury and St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Glens Falls.

He was found guilty in 2011 of child rape and indecent assault for sexually assaulting teens he met at local parishes when he took them to western Massachusetts for outdoor excursions.

The lawsuits were filed by attorneys from the law firms of Jeff Anderson & Associates and LaFave Wein & Frament on behalf of the survivors. Courts on Monday reopened following a shutdown of nearly three months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“In bringing suit today, it is paramount to these survivors that we protect our children of today and tomorrow,” said attorney Cynthia LaFave in a news release. “With the heroic resolve of these voices and their stories, we can imagine a future where justice — long overdue — can be had, and atrocities like those already endured are finally obsoleted from the narrative of the American childhood.”

The state Legislature recently extended by one year, to August 2021, the deadline to file cases under the Child Victims Act.

Diocese spokeswoman Mary DeTurris Poust said all allegations of sexual abuse are taken very seriously.

“Behind every claim is a suffering person who needs our compassion and assistance. The diocese has not yet been served in any of the 52 cases filed today,” she said in an email. “Once that occurs, the diocese will review the documents and allegations and take whatever actions may be necessary to inform and safeguard the public. Bishop (Edward) Scharfenberger remains committed to providing assistance to survivors while allegations are being investigated and beyond.”

Reach Michael Goot at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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