Victims Come Forward in Clergy Abuse Charges Against Father Thomas Summers
Breit Cantor Grana Buckner—September 14, 2020
The wide-reaching sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy extends into the churches of Virginia. For decades, most victims of clergy abuse remained silent. After an anonymous man filed a sexual abuse lawsuit against Richmond native Father Thomas Summers, however, a growing number of clergy abuse victims are coming forward.
Too many abusers like Father Summers go unpunished in courts. The only way to force accountability and prevent future clergy abuse is to bring suit against those who abused and the Diocese that kept abusers like Summers in positions of authority.
Clergy Abuse Victims Are Coming Forward
According to a lawsuit brought forward by the plaintiff “John Doe,” Father Summers raped and battered the plaintiff from the time he was 10 until he was 14 years old. The lawsuit indicates that Summers used the coercive powers of the church to inflict repeated sexual assault on the boy by threatening to withdraw the church’s financial support to his impoverished family.
While serving the church as an altar boy at St. James Catholic School during the 1960s, the plaintiff alleged in court documents that Summers routinely used drugs and alcohol to incapacitate him as part of ongoing sexual abuse.
The lawsuit highlights one incident in which the child was lucid enough to run away. Summers reportedly caught him and threatened to call social services and “have me taken away from my parents.” Following John Doe’s decision to draw attention to child sexual abuse by members of the clergy, two other men came forward supporting the graphic allegations.
Summers died in 1992. But the pain and suffering have not ended for his victims.
Seeking Justice for Unknown Victims of Father Thomas Summers
Victims who were sexually assaulted during their childhood years by authority figures can struggle with emotional distress for all of their lives. Many will struggle with depression, heightened anxiety, and unwarranted feelings of self-loathing. Research indicates that males abused as children are prone to harm others in adulthood. Sexual abuse does not end with the abuse itself. It resonates for a lifetime. That’s why more and more people are prepared to hold the church accountable for its systematic wrongdoing and to prevent future child abuse.
Father Summers ministered at churches across Virginia, which leads to concern that there are more of his victims in areas that include:
- St. James Catholic Church: Hopewell, VA
- St. Nicholas Catholic Church: Virginia Beach, VA
- Arlington County
- Powhatan County
Too many people live in silent anguish, never having an opportunity to heal. One step toward the healing of decades-old abuse is to hold the Diocese accountable for Father Summer’s crimes.
Filing a civil lawsuit can be an essential step toward getting the treatment and care that victims of clergy abuse need and deserve. It can begin a healing process. If you are a victim of clergy abuse in Virginia, please contact us. We can have a confidential and compassionate consultation about your situation and how we may help you.
By Courtney Sweasy