The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Release
For immediate release: Wednesday, July 15
For more information: David Clohessy 314 566 9790
Unique new sex abuse & cover up suit implicates TN bishop
Catholic officials are charged with "conspiracy" & "fraud" for recent acts
Twice-accused molester was quietly put back in parishes six months ago
Priest was first accused of sexual misconduct in 2004 and was ousted from school
Then-Msgr. Stika misled victim into thinking predator would be kept away from kids, suit says
As a result, police weren't notified and credibly accused pedophile was re-assigned to 2 churches
A new child molestation and cover up lawsuit being filed today in St. Louis implicates Knoxville's new Catholic bishop, saying that he and other top church officials committed "conspiracy" and "fraud" six months ago when they quietly put a credibly accused predator priest back into two parishes.
The case is "one of the clearest examples that church hierarchy has not 'reformed' and that then-Msgr. Richard Stika repeatedly protected alleged pedophiles instead of innocent kids," said David Clohessy, the national director a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org).
The lawsuit will be discussed at a sidewalk news conference in St. Louis today (at 2:00 p.m. Central time) outside the archdiocesan headquarters. A photo of the priest will be available, along with copies of the lawsuit and a written statement by the victim, will be provided.
According to the new civil lawsuit, Stika and his colleagues misled a clergy sex abuse victim about his predator, Fr. Michael A. Freymuth. In a 2005 meeting, they led this victim to believe Fr. Michael Freymuth would be kept away from kids and out of ministry, the suit says. Because of these "assurances" by the church hierarchy, the victim "did not go to the police or pursue any legal action."
At the time, Freymuth had already been accused of abuse twice and removed in 2004 from a Catholic school.
Instead of keeping their pledge, just six months ago, archdiocesan officials quietly re-assigned Freymuth to two inner city parishes, with no warning or notice to the public or the parishioners. (In January 2009, SNAP learned that Freymuth was living at the inner city parishes. When SNAP publicly disclosed this, and another victim said he would soon sue Freymuth, the archdiocese ousted him again.)
The archdiocese's "willful, wanton and reckless" actions warrant punitive damages, according to the suit. "As a direct result of (the archdiocesan) fraud and conspiracy," the victim "continues to suffer great pain" and the archdiocese should pay punitive damages, the lawsuit contends.
In 2002, a young man told church staff that Freymuth molested him roughly 15 years before. Stika, then archdiocese’s “point man” on abuse, didn’t believe the victim.
"I've talked with that brave man several times and he's very credible," said Clohessy. "It was extraordinarily reckless for Stika to keep an accused child molester working at a school."
In 2004, a second young man, Timothy J. Bartin of Columbia (573 499 9485), made an in-person report to a local church panel, detailing inappropriate sexualized “grooming” behavior by Freymuth against him. Bartin was roughly 12 at the time. In December 2004, the archdiocese allegedly secretly suspended Freymuth for the first time. But no announcement was made about it until about a month later, when SNAP disclosed Bartin's allegations in a January 2005 news release.
At the time of his 2005 suspension, Freymuth was a chaplain at Cardinal Ritter Prep (701 N. Spring Avenue, 446-5500) in St. Louis. He has also worked at five St. Louis area parishes. All but one of the parishes (Sts. Mary and Joseph) also have elementary schools.
According to the new lawsuit, Freymuth "had domination and influence over" and "sexually abused and exploited" a boy "on numerous occasions" at St. Joan of Arc parish and elsewhere. The crimes happened in the early 1980s while Freymuth claimed that he was "providing spiritual counseling, comfort, mentor and advice to the (child)."
The recent re-assignment of Freymuth, into apparently unsupervised parish ministry with unsuspecting parishioners, is evidence that the archdiocese is violating its pledges to protect kids and be open about child sex cases, Clohessy says.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests