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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Release
For immediate release: Friday, Aug. 27, 2010
New court ruling lets predator priest case go forward
Cleric now in prison for molesting a 13 year old boy in 2000
Denver judge ruled that civil case can proceed, even though it happened 30 years ago
A Denver judge is letting a clergy sex abuse case involving a Catholic priest move forward, even though church officials tried to get it tossed out.
On Wednesday, District Court Judge Michael Martinez denied a motion by a Denver-based religious order to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a 49-year old man who reports having been sexually abused by Fr. Mark Matson in the mid 1970s at St. Andrews Seminary, a Catholic boarding school in Denver for boys. At the time, the boy was 15-16 and Matson headed the school.
While staying in the dorms as a prospective student, the victim, identified only as John Doe, was fondled by Matson. After he enrolled, Matson continued to fondle him throughout the school year, and Matson eventually raped the boy while he was unconscious.
Matson has previously been accused of molesting boys in Colorado, Texas, and California. He is currently serving a 20 year sentence for molesting a 13 year old boy in Hawaii in 2000.
Matson belongs to the Denver-based Theatine Fathers, a Catholic religious order. The Theatines were named as the defendant in the lawsuit, which was filed in April of this year by Miami attorney, Adam Horowitz. Horowitz’ firm has represented hundreds of child sex abuse victims, by clergy and others.
The suit charges negligence by the Theatines because they allegedly “knew that Fr. Matson was a pedophile before Fr. Matson sexually abused the boy.” Additionally, it alleges that the Theatines “engaged in a plot to conceal, withhold, and misrepresent their prior knowledge about Fr. Matson’s sexual propensities with minors.”
The judge ruled that the plaintiff only recently learned of the Theatines misconduct, so the case falls within the statute of limitations.
A support group for clergy sex abuse victims called SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) praised the judge for his interpretation of the law.
“All across the country, more and more judges are realizing that a young girl being raped by her step dad can’t promptly call the police about the crimes and that a boy being sodomized by a coach can’t run downtown, walk in the prosecutor’s office, and start taking legal action,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s director. “It takes decades for child sex victims to face the horror, realize they’ve been severely harmed, understand that the harm is on-going, and find the courage to check out their legal options and act.”
In June, the Theatines moved to have Doe’s case rejected based on the statute of limitations. That defense, however, draws a sharp rebuke from SNAP.
“It’s morally wrong for an allegedly spiritual institution to fight in court like cold-hearted CEOs, trying to exploit an arbitrary legal technicality to evade telling the truth and being held responsible for a serial child predator,” said SNAP’s Clohessy. “Can you imagine Jesus shunning a needy person because he or she supposedly didn’t come forward by some archaic, random deadline?”
The religious order has 15 days to answer the allegations.
Case Number: 10cv3203
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests