In a series of exclusive interviews with Fault Lines, several men across New York City come forward with painful memories of abuse by a Catholic priest.

They say that Father John Paddack - who was ordained in 1984 and had been ministering in New York until he was suspended in July - molested them during confession and counselling sessions in different Catholic schools across the city.

They are allowing these predator priests to frolic around aimlessly on the streets of New York, with open access, under the shield of a collar.

Joseph Caramanno, victim

The men allege years of abuse by Paddack, sparking the latest revelations in a decades-old scandal that has shaken the Catholic Church to its foundation.

And they say that, in the intervening decades, Paddack remained in ministry - working in close proximity to children.

The church should "stop hiding", says Joseph Caramanno, one of the men who says he was abused by Paddack while in high school, and one of the first to open a public case against the priest.

"They are allowing these predator priests to frolic around aimlessly on the streets of New York, with open access, under the shield of a collar," he says.

Another victim, Gabriel* - now a father of two - says he was molested by Paddack as a 12-year-old Catholic school student.

"That destroyed my youth," he says about the abuse. "That could have killed me, honestly."

For many years, these men shared their stories privately, among close confidants. But when New York's restrictive statute of limitations law for victims of child sex abuse was amended in 2019, they went public with their claims.

The men are suing the Catholic Church, and calling on the city's most powerful cleric - Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York - to remove Father Paddack from ministry.

"The Archdiocese has known about the allegations against Monsignor Paddack for years, more than six years. Those allegations have been kept quiet by the Archdiocese," says Mike Reck, one of the lawyers for the victims.

Cardinal Dolan, meanwhile, has told the 2.5 million Catholics under his watch to rest assured, claiming there are no active priests facing credible abuse allegations in his Archdiocese. Clergy abuse, he said, was largely a problem of the past.

However, our investigation into Father Paddack revealed a different story, one that raises questions about New York's Catholic hierarchy, and whether its leader has put the prestige of the church above the survival of its victims.

For this investigation, Fault Lines spoke to five of the men who accuse Father Paddack of abuse; allegations that form a pattern starting from the early 1980s until the early 2000s, the victims' lawyers say.

*Not his real name

Source: Al Jazeera