MO--Two abuse cases settle vs. ex-Fordham professor & priest

MO--Two abuse cases settle vs. ex-Fordham professor & priest

For immediate release: Friday, Jan. 8, 2016

Statement by David Clohessy, director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790davidgclohessy@gmail.com)

Two women have settled abuse lawsuits – totaling $282,000 - against the Jesuits and an ex-professor and priest at Fordham University because he abused them. The predator also taught at Georgetown University in Washington DC and became the president of St. Louis University in Missouri (All three are Jesuit institutions.)

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/settlements-reached-in-two-abuse-lawsuits-involving-former-st-louis/article_9ddcd298-9ee3-552c-8728-9b4846bfedd0.html

http://www.riverfronttimes.com/newsblog/2016/01/06/jesuits-to-pay-281k-to-settle-lawsuits-against-former-slu-president-daniel-oconnell

And one of the cases is only the second of its type anywhere. It could open the door to more cases against Catholic officials. It charges that Jesuits violated a contract they made with the victim to keep the predator priest out of public ministry.

These highly unusual abuse and breach of contract lawsuits are very encouraging. We hope and believe other victims will start using this tactic. (More on this below.)

We applaud both of these women for their courage, their persistence and their concern for others who may be hurt or betrayed by Jesuits.

--The first victim, “Jane Doe MB”

 In this just-settled “breach” Fr. Daniel O’Connell “was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old college student in 1983,” according to the New York Times. (She now lives in New York.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/30/nyregion/30jesuit.html?_r=0

In 2003, Jesuit officials “found the accusation credible,” paid her $181,000 settlement and agreed to remove O'Connell “from a teaching post at another Jesuit institution” and bar him “from public ministry” or any activity in which he could develop a relationship with a woman. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/30/nyregion/30jesuit.html?_r=2&

In 2010, this woman filed a suit accusing O’Connell’s Jesuit supervisors of breaking that promise by letting him teach in Oklahoma, engage in public ministry in Germany, and speak at symposia and seminars at several universities. 

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2010/03_04/2010_04_29_Killeen_FormerSt.htm

That suit has just settled out of court for $82,000. It was being handled by Judge Phil Heagney. A copy of the suit is here: http://www.rmblawyers.com/Amended%20Petition.pdf

--The second victim, "Jane Doe 929"

While “a very popular” SLU professor at SLU, Fr. O’Connell “used his position to sexually abuse a female undergraduate during counseling sessions,” according to the Riverfront Times. In 2012, she filed suit and just agreed to settle for $200,000.

Both women are identified only by pseudonyms. Both were represented by attorney Rebecca Randles of Kansas City (816 931 9901, 816 510 2704 cell,rebecca@rmblawyers.com). O'Connell was St. Louis University president from 1974 to 1978. He is believed to still be living in St. Louis.

WHAT NEXT

We beg the Jesuits, Fordham’s president and board and Cardinal Timothy Dolan to

-- use their vast resources to aggressively seek out others who have seen, suspected or suffered abuse or exploitation by Fr. O’Connell or cover ups at Fordham, and beg them to call law enforcement and other independent sources of help, and

-- turn over everything they have, know and learn about Fr. O’Connell’s crimes and Fordham’s cover ups to law enforcement and share that information with the public, parishioners, students, staff and alums.

SIGNIFICANCE

Here's why these “breach of contract” cases are so ground-breaking and important.

We suspect that hundreds of clergy sex abuse victims have reached settlements with Catholic officials that include child protection commitments. We suspect that many of them have not been closely monitored.

We hope these settlements will

--prompt many victims and their attorneys to look hard at whether these pledges are being kept. If bishops are breaking their promises, we hope victims will file more suits like this.

-- prod more victims to push hard for child safety provisions when they're discussing settlement possibilities. Catholic officials would rather just write a check. But many victims find it more healing when they are able to force Catholic officials to formally pledge to take real abuse prevention steps.

We fear, however, that these settlements may make Catholic officials even more reluctant to agree to child safety measure when they settle abuse lawsuits.

Finn's a smart man with plenty of smart lawyers and public relations advisers. He voluntarily signed this contract with victims, pledging to take steps to stop abuse and cover ups. Finn break their agreements and contracts with victims, they rub even more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of struggling men and women who had already been sexually violated by priests and re-victimized by callous Catholic officials.

Victims' courage and compassion made these contracts happen. Now, victims' courage and compassion are enforcing it. Again, we applaud these brave victims who are pioneering a new approach to deterring wrongdoing by holding wrongdoers responsible for their wrongdoing, even if they are powerful prelates.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, davidgclohessy@gmail.comSNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747bblaine@snapnetwork.org)

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