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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
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Unusual Tulsa Sexual Abuse Trial Involving Priest Ends
Accused Cleric Fails With Slander Lawsuit
Spends $¼ Million But Doesn't Get Vindication He Sought
In a Tulsa courtroom today, an unusual civil trial ended in which a priest lost his slander lawsuit against a man he allegedly molested as a boy.
The priest, Fr.Paul Eichhoff of Clairemore took action first. In August of 2002, he sued Kelly Kirk, now 36, and his father Gordon Kirk, alleging slander. In July 2002, the Kirks had reported to their pastor that Eichhoff molested Kelly in the 1970s, when he was a student at St. Mary's Grade School. For years, Kelly had repressed the memory of the assault.
The nation's largest and oldest support group for sex abuse victims, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), supported the Kirks throughout the trial. A SNAP board member, Janet Patterson of Conway Springs Kansas, traveled to Tulsa to observe the trial.
"We're thrilled and grateful that the Kirks were vindicated and that Eichhoff was not. This wise decision will surely help this wounded family recover," Patterson said. "We also hope that it will encourage others who may have witnessed, suspected or experienced abuse by clerics to find the strength to come forward."
"Can you imagine what Jesus would say about a priest suing a former parishioner?" said David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "Eichhoff's harsh move can only serve to intimidate other victims and witnesses from getting the help they need or exposing other dangerous men."
Clohessy stressed that the Kirks did exactly what bishops urge victims to do: report abuse to church authorities. "This family didn't seek damages or a settlement or a lawsuit or publicity. Eichhoff, however, did all those things," Clohessy said. "His behavior has been anything but Christian."
"Kelly and his family have endured a tremendous amount of pain," Clohessy said. "Our hearts ache for them. At the same time, we applaud their courage."
The Kirks are represented by Tulsa attorney W.R. Cathcart. Eichhoff is represented by Tulsa attorney David Messer of Bruneand Neff.
The trial began last Monday at 1:30 p.m. in Judge Ronald L. Shaffer's courtroom in Tulsa District Court. The bishop of Tulsa, Edward Slattery, testified.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
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