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Two brothers, now in their 40s, can sue a Roman Catholic priest for sexual abuse they allegedly suffered as children but repressed subconsciously for decades, a state appeals court ruled last Monday. The judges revived a suit that a trial judge found time-barred under the Sexual Abuse Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:61B-1, which requires that suits be filed within two years of “reasonable discovery of the injury and its causal relationship to the act of sexual abuse.” “It is not clear why the trial court dismissed the claims against [Michael] Campanalonga,” a former priest at St. Anthony’s Church in Northvale, N.J., who plaintiffs Thomas and Michael Corsie, now 40 and 48, say abused them as minors. The abuse alleged occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, but the suit, Corsie v. Campanalonga, A-2706-99T1, was not initiated until 1992. Essex County, N.J., Superior Court Judge Carol Ferentz did not doubt the abuse took place but doubted the credibility of the claims about repressed memories. Appellate Division Judges James Havey, Harvey Weissbard and Dennis Braithwaite called that a question for the trier of fact, finding that the brothers had made a prima facie case that they filed their suit within two years of their memories being reactivated. The panel dismissed as time-barred claims against Campanalonga’s supervisor, Monsignor James Johnson, who the brothers say knew of Campanalonga’s conduct but failed to take action. The panel found Johnson did not meet the Sexual Abuse Act’s definition of in loco parentis that would create liability. The appeals court upheld dismissal, based on charitable immunity, of claims against the Archdiocese of Newark, officials of which the brothers claimed were fully aware of Campanalonga’s dangerous propensities when they assigned him to St. Anthony’s, and against the church itself. The panel found no allegations of fact that would amount to the “willful or wanton negligence or intentional conduct” necessary to overcome charitable immunity. Plaintiffs’ lawyer Stephen Rubino of Ross & Rubino in Margate, N.J., says he may appeal the dismissals and will certainly pursue the suit against Campanalonga, who defaulted at trial and on the appeal. A spokesman for the archdiocese, James Goodness, says Campanalonga was suspended from the priesthood but otherwise declines to comment. James Lisovicz, a partner at McElroy, Deutsch & Mulvaney in Morristown, N.J., who represents the archdiocese, St. Anthony’s and Johnson, also declines to comment.

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