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Cairo priest named in first round of Child Victims Act lawsuits

Pictured are Capital Region priests accused of sexual abuse in civil suits filed in Albany County.
August 15, 2019 05:22 pm

ALBANY — A former Cairo priest who served there for three decades was named in one of hundreds of lawsuits filed against alleged abusers and their institutions after enactment of the state’s Child Victims Act on Wednesday.

Father Sean McMahon, 82, a Roman Catholic priest at Sacred Heart Church, 35 Church St., Cairo, was named as a defendant in a lawsuit against his employer, the Catholic Diocese of Albany.

The suit alleges McMahon abused a teenager in his parish in the 1980s.

The civil suit was among 427 claims filed across the state Wednesday, the first day of the Child Victims Act, a law that lifts the statute of limitations for a one-year period to allow alleged victims to file lawsuits against alleged abusers and institutions like the Roman Catholic Church that may have failed to remove abusive priests.

In 1984, McMahon engaged in unpermitted sexual contact with the alleged victim who was 16 at the time, according to the lawsuit filed against the diocese on Tuesday. Details of the alleged sexual contact were not outlined in the suit.

The Register-Star does not name alleged victims of sexual assault.

“Defendants also breached their duty to plaintiff by actively maintaining and employing Fr. McMahon in a position of power and authority through which Fr. McMahon had access to children, including Plaintiff, and power and control over children, including Plaintiff,” according to the suit filed in state Supreme Court in Albany and dated Wednesday.

McMahon was permanently barred from serving in any capacity as a priest by former Albany diocese Bishop Howard Hubbard in 2003 after McMahon admitted to sexually abusing a child in the 1970s. The admission came after the victim reported the abuse to the diocese in early 2003.

McMahon, originally from County Kerry, Ireland, began serving the Albany Diocese in 1963 and was assigned to Sacred Heart Church in Cairo in 1974. He also served parishes in Whitehall, Schenectady and Troy.

Hubbard, 80, who was a frequent guest of St. Patrick’s Parish in Catskill and often visited St. Patrick’s High School, was named as a defendant in a separate lawsuit Wednesday. He is accused of abusing a 16-year-old boy.

“There is no place in our family of faith for abusers to act out, regardless of their status, or to hide from their crimes, nor should anyone fear calling them out, past or present,” said Albany Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger in a video statement this week. “We support all survivors in the justice and healing that they seek.”

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Cynthia LaFave, of LaFave, Wein and Frament in Guilderland, and Jeff Anderson and Associates of New York City. The two firms announced in a joint press conference in Albany on Wednesday that they filed 22 lawsuits against the Albany Diocese on behalf of alleged victims under the Child Victims Act. Most of the alleged victims in the suits were not named.

“The Child Victims Act in New York is law,” Anderson said during the press conference. “And that means every survivor that has been violated as a child by an adult can now do something that they couldn’t before and that is have their voice heard, take action to do something about recovery of their own power and to do something to protect others in the future.”

More lawsuits will be forthcoming, Anderson added.

“The one-year window is open, and we will use every one of those days,” LaFave said Wednesday.

Mark Lyman, a child sexual abuse survivor, vowed that justice is at hand.

“This is the first day of empowerment for sexual abuse survivors across the state of New York,” Lyman said at the press conference.

Other priests with connections to Greene County who have been accused of sexual abuse in the past are Father John Bertolucci, Father Jeremiah Nunan and Father Donald Ophals.

More than three dozen judges have been assigned to handle the lawsuits by the state Office of Court Administration.

To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.