Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests
Giving Voice to Victims
For immediate release:
Tuesday, June 7
For more information:
David Clohessy, SNAP National Director, 314 566 9790
New Missouri Ruling May Mean More Priest Abuse Trials
Sex Abuse Victims Praise New Court Decision
Lawsuit Against Prominent Catholic School Moves Forward
Advocates for molestation victims are praising a Missouri Court of Appeals
ruling may mean more civil trials and larger settlement awards in civil
clergy sex abuse cases.
Late last week, the court said that a former Chaminade student, Michael
Powel, could sue the St. Louis archdiocese, the school, the religious
order that runs the school, and two clerics who worked there: Father William
Christensen, and Brother John J. Woulfe. The two teachers molested Powel
when he attended Chaminade in the 1970s.
Catholic officials claimed that Powel, now 46, should have come forward
sooner. He filed his suit in June 2002, just two years after he recovered
memories of the abuse.
But the Court of Appeals said it's up to a jury to decide whether Powel's
lawsuit is timely.
"This is a huge victory," said Barbara Dorris of the Survivors
Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. "More and more survivors
want to bring their perpetrator, and those who shielded him, to court.
More want to see the truth emerge through sworn depositions and testmony.
This ruling makes those trials more likely."
The decision contradicts an older Missouri ruling, HRB v. Rigali. In
that 2000 decision, a St. Louis jury's $1.2 million award to a victim
of Father James Gummersbach was overturned because a higher court determined
the victim should have initiated legal action sooner.
This ruling is part of a nationwide trend toward more justice for victims
and fewer breaks for predators," said Clohessy "All across the
country, judges are realizing that rigid time constraints on abuse victims
allows molesters to keep molesting and jeopardizes vulnerable children
Last week's Court of Appeals decision will likely end up before the Missouri
In light of that decision however, Dorris predicts, local church officials
are likely to offer more in settlements with abuse victims.
"Last fall, the archdiocesan lawyer publicly said 'I can beat (the
victims) in court and they know it.' There was some truth behind this
insensitive remark," she said. "Now, that's much less certain,
so the archdiocese may have to be more reasonable during settlement talks."
She mentioned a recent instance in which $15,000 was offered to a local
victim of a priest now serving a life sentence for molesting boys in Massachusetts.
"Few other dioceses propose such insulting settlements," she
Both Clohessy and Dorris expressed appreciation and praise for Powel.
"We're very grateful that Michael has the courage to come forward,
expose his abusers, warn parents about them, and seek justice," said
Clohessy. "We're also encouraged by this ruling, which makes it slightly
less difficult for victims to get the truth about these terrible crimes
told through our legal system."
"Michael has suffered tremendously and at least deserves his day
in court," Dorris said.
Powel, who now lives in Florida, is represented by St. Louis attorney
Joseph Bauer. Gerard Noce and Matthew W. Potter represent Chaminade.
Other local attorneys handing clergy sex abuse cases include Susan Carlson
and Ken Chackes of University City. Also involved in most such cases is
St. Paul MN attorney Patrick Noaker (612 961 1307).
Molestation cases await ruling
Kansas City Star
Sat, June 04, 2005
Sixteen Jackson County lawsuits alleging past child molestation by Catholic
priests have been put on hold until the Missouri Supreme Court answers
a key question.
At issue is when the five-year statute of limitations begins to run on
child-molestation cases. The appeals court in Kansas City has ruled that
it begins at age 21, but the appeals court in St. Louis said it begins
when a person remembers repressed memories.
The St. Louis ruling, which was issued this week, criticized rulings
by the Kansas City-based court. The St. Louis appeals court asked the
state Supreme Court to resolve the matter.
Jackson County judges say they cannot act on the 16 cases until that
is done, which could take months.
The St. Louis court ruled that a 46-year-old man could sue a college
prep school where, he said, two priests sexually abused him when he was
from 15 to 17 years old. The man contended that he repressed memories
of the abuse until 2000. He sued in 2002. A lower court dismissed the
case for being filed past the statute of limitations.
In the 16 Jackson County lawsuits filed since fall 2003, about 30 plaintiffs
accuse five former Kansas City priests of sexually abusing them as children.
Four of the men â€ Thomas Reardon, Joseph Hart, Thomas
J. Oâ€Brien and Francis McGlynn â€ have
said they are innocent. The fifth, Hugh Monahan, has not been reached
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of those Abused by Priests