MN- Thursday 11 a.m. abuse court hearing in St. Paul

For immediate release Thursday, October 16, 2014 

For more info: Barbara Dorris (314 503 0003, [email protected]), David Clohessy (314 566 9790, [email protected])

A hearing will be held tomorrow in a St. Paul courtroom in a clergy sex abuse and cover-up case that revolves around the question of whether a priest can refuse to answer questions about alleged childhood sexual abuse by asserting the priest-penitent privilege.

It will be held in Ramsey County District Court (Room 1470) before Judge John B. Van de North, J. The accused priest is Fr. Thomas Stitts. One of the clerics who is refusing to answer questions is Fr. Richard “Dick” Rice, a Jesuit.

“Time and time again we’ve seen Catholic officials abuse various ‘privileges’ to protect their colleagues while endangering kids,” said David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Not everything one priest tells another is ‘off-limits’ in clergy sex abuse and cover up cases. Sometimes, the physical safety of children trumps the beliefs of two powerful adults. ”

In 2013, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was sued relating to allegations that Fr. Stitts sexually abused a Minneapolis man.  

The archdiocese was alleged to have known of Stitts' sexual of abuse of children as early as 1970, but allegedly took no action to discipline him or to prevent further abuse by him.

In a "STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL" 1985 memo, then-Bishop Robert Carlson wrote about Fr. Stitts's possible exploits with boys. Rumors were circulating that Fr. Stitts had “come clean” about his "moral activity" and named other allegedly abusive priests in a letter.

Carlson's memo draws no definitive conclusion, but suggests that a choir director burned the confession to avoid scandal. 

This case is currently set for trial in January 2015. It is set to be the first case to be tried under the Minnesota Child Victim Act. 

Representing the victim, John Doe 104, is Minneapolis attorney Patrick Noaker ([email protected], 612 839 1080). Representing the priests who have claimed the priest penitent privilege is Minneapolis attorney Paul Engh (612 252 1100).

Fr. Stitts was ordained in 1962 and worked in Highland Park, St. Paul, Edna, Hastings, Long Lake, Bew Brighton under several bishops. He has been sued for abuse at least a dozen times. In 1985, he passed away. His photo is available on

Case caption:  John Doe 104 v. Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Case #: 62-CV-13-5755.


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