The suit alleges that at least 43 children were abused from 1960 to 1984, and that the diocese tried to hide the attacks by transferring priests from parish to parish.
The abuse ranged from fondling to sodomy and occurred on church altars, in rectories, school stairwells, priests' homes and, in one case, at Shea Stadium during a Mets baseball game, according to the suit.
The plaintiffs, whose suit seeks $300 million, did not want their names made public. When they allegedly were abused, the 39 men and four women ranged in age from 7 to 17.
The suit also names as a defendant Bishop Thomas Daily, head of the diocese that serves 1.6 million Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens. Daily was aware of abuse by priests and of efforts to conceal their offenses, the suit says.
Daily once worked under Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston, where the nationwide priest sex abuse scandal erupted in January. Daily has also been accused of failing to act promptly on complaints of clergy abuse during his tenure there. He said in March that he regretted some of the decisions he made during that time.
Frank De Rosa, a spokesman for the diocese, said he had not seen the suit and could not comment on the allegations.
"The diocese follows its policy of cooperating with civil authorities," he said.
By Sara Kugler