|5 more suits
accuse St. Louis priest of abuse
By Jeremy Kohler, Post-Dispatch
Five lawsuits filed Tuesday in St. Louis bring to a dozen
the number alleging Catholic priest Michael McGrath molested
children and that the Archdiocese of St. Louis covered it
Like many of the earlier suits, each one filed Tuesday alleges
McGrath fondled the children while letting them drive his
van during day trips and weekend outings he organized for
young teens throughout the 1980s.
After the suits were announced, a group representing victims
of sexual abuse by clergy leafleted McGrath's neighborhood
in Richmond Heights to warn his neighbors of the suits.
McGrath could not be reached Tuesday. He has previously declined
to comment through his attorney.
Each of the five new plaintiffs was identified in court filings
as "John Doe" to protect his identity; none of them
attended a news conference convened by their lawyer outside
the archdiocese offices on Lindell Boulevard on Tuesday.
Four accusers allege McGrath abused them between 1979 and
1981 while the priest was an assistant at St. Patrick's in
Wentzville. The fifth alleges abuse that occurred between
1984 and 1985 while McGrath was an assistant at St. Simon
the Apostle in south St. Louis County.
"He took them driving and he sexually molested them,"
said Patrick Noaker, of St. Paul, Minn., one of the lawyers
for the plaintiffs.
The suits also allege the archdiocese shuttled McGrath from
parish to parish to hide his predatory ways, though none of
the plaintiffs reported their abuse until this year.
The archdiocese denies that accusations of sexual abuse had
anything to do with McGrath's assignments. In a recent interview,
Monsignor Richard Stika, the St. Louis Archdiocese's vicar
general, said until recent weeks just one person - in 1993
- had ever accused McGrath of sexual abuse.
That man told the archdiocese that McGrath fondled him once
in the 1973-74 school year while McGrath was still a seminarian,
Stika said McGrath was then put through psychological testing
and was placed on medical leave for a year while he received
psychological treatment. During that time he got a master
of arts in theology from St. Louis University.
At the end of the treatment, medical experts on sexual abuse
told the archdiocese that McGrath "was safe to work with
young people," said Stika.
In fall 1995, McGrath returned to DuBourg High School as
a teacher. The following year, he was assigned to live at
St. Stephen Protomartyr near Carondelet Park in St. Louis.
McGrath was placed on administrative leave in 1997 and has
since worked as a bus driver for Metro and Greyhound.
McGrath's neighbors had a mix of opinions about the leaflets
passed out Tuesday by the Survivors Network of those Abused
"People can accuse you of anything, but it's up to the
courts to decide," said Joe Sherrell, 41, as he tilled
soil at his house across from McGrath. "If (McGrath)
can prove them wrong, he should sue for defamation of character."