Indianapolis 500 chaplain accused of sexual abuse
A sexual abuse lawsuit has been filed against a priest who serves as chaplain for the Indianapolis 500.
Fr. Philip Derea officiated at the wedding of Ashley Judd and Dario Franchitti and was the ABC News "Person of the Week" in 1996. His alleged victim, who is now an adult in his 40s, claims the priest molested him repeatedly over several years beginning when he was 9 years old.
Derea has been called the "Race Track Reverend" for his association with the Indianapolis 500 and the Indy Racing League Ministry. He has served as a priest for more than 40 years and is allegedly a member in good standing of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
"The church officials have known for a while, how long, I'm not sure. I believe that the victim in this case informed them several months ago and yet, the church officials have not publicly removed him," said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.
The alleged victim claims Derea sexually assaulted and abused him numerous times more than three decades ago in Washington, D.C. Derea now lives in suburban Chicago.
The victim says after contacting Derea, he got an email response that said in part: "I have waited all these years with a heavy heart and great regret I did you and your family a great injustice and am sorry for my weakness and sinfulness...I was horribly weak and out of control...I have been agonizing over this for years."
The lawsuit also says Derea even sent the victim several thousand dollars and offered more if he would drop any legal claims.
According to SNAP, the victim recently lost his home and business as well as other problems as a result of psychological issues caused by the abuse.
"This was the cause of the break-up of his marriage. It's caused an incredible amount of pain and suffering, to not only him, but the people who love him," Blaine said.
The statute of limitations on criminal charges has passed, but the alleged victim has filed a civil suit against the priest and his order, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, which is based in Aurora, Ill.
ABC7 called Missionaries of the Sacred Heart for a response but they said they have no comment at this time. ABC7 News