The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Monday, July 13, 2009
Catholic officials fight punitive damages; Sex abuse victims respond
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell)
How sad that Indiana Catholic officials have delayed a pedophile priest lawsuit for four years. It's also sad that they're trying to evade responsibility and re-write history.
It's clear that decades ago, the church hierarchy knew Fr. Monroe was a child molester. Evidence across the country in such cases shows that, even decades ago, top church staffers wrote about pedophile priests using euphemisms and vague language, but language they certainly understood as pertaining to child sex crimes.
Let's hope that this judge doesn't allow even more church delaying maneuvers and soon gives Monroe's victims their 'day in court.' Let's also hope that every single person who saw, suspected or suffered Monroe's crimes will come forward, get help, call police, start healing and protect others.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 21 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688), Mary Grant (626-419-2930), Mark Serrano (703-727-4940)
Letter holds key to claim Indy archdiocese deserves punishment
What's in a letter?
If you're alleging the Archdiocese of Indianapolis knew it had an abusive priest on its hands and tried to cover it up, there's a lot. But if you are trying to defend the archdiocese against a lawsuit that could bring a potentially damaging financial judgment, there's not so much.
That's the basic story line out of a court hearing this morning where lawyers for John Doe NM, an Indianapolis man who said he was molested by his priest at St. Catherine's Catholic Church in the 1970s, argued that a jury should decide if punitive damages are justified against the archdiocese.
Pat Noaker, a Minneapolis attorney representing John Doe NM, said a 1976 letter written by an archdiocesan priest personnel director clearly indicates the church knew what it had in priest Harry Monroe before it assigned him to St. Catherine's.
The letter sent to the House of Affirmation, a clinic that attempted to treat abusive priests, included a plea for help from archdiocesan officials, who described Monroe as "desperately in need of help." It mentioned that there were complaints from parents about the young priest's "association and activities with young boys."
"Looking back," the personnel director wrote, "one can see that even during his deacon internship he spent most of his time with sixth-grade boys." That includes camping trips with boys, including one instance reported by a mother that involved her son having his pants removed and peanut butter smeared on his buttocks.
Noaker said the inclusion of the punitive damages possibility is necessary now because the letter was discovered during the course of preparing his case, and was not available when it was originally filed.
But Jay Mercer, the attorney defending the archdiocese, said spending time with boys and going camping with them isn't evidence of a crime. And he points out that the person involved in the peanut butter incident isn't specified as Monroe by name. Hanging so much legal weight on the letter, whose writer is dead and can't spell out his intentions, is unfair to the archdiocese, Mercer said.
Judge David A. Shaheed will decide whether to allow the case to proceed with punitive damages as a possibility. Punitive damages in Indiana are limited to three times the amount a victim is compensated for injuries, pain and suffering.
No trial date has been set in a case that was filed nearly four years ago.
Monroe has admitted under oath that he molested at least five of the 13 boys who, now as adults, filed lawsuits against him and the archdiocese. He didn't deny the other abuse cases, but claimed he had no clear memories of them.
That archdiocese has acknowledged Monroe was a child molester, but that church leaders made diligent efforts to seek clinical help for Monroe at the time and were assured by experts of the day that he was cured before making new parish assignments.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests