MO- Two groups hold vigil
They're appalled by archbishop
Just-released deposition gets national attention
And “it's going to get worse,” abuse victims predict
Local archdiocese faces three “very tough” lawsuits
Carlson's comments were “not an aberration but part of pattern” they say
A small, short vigil will be held to condemn the recent words and deeds of St. Louis' top Catholic official in clergy sex abuse cases. (Some participants will kneel, others will stand with posters and or childhood photos.)
TODAY, Wednesday, June 11, 2 p.m.
Outside the "new" Cathedral on Lindell (at Newstead) in the CWE
Members of two groups, concerned Catholics called ARC, the Association for the Rights of Catholics and SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Like thousands across the U.S, the two organizations are upset by admissions and alleged memory lapses by the area's top Catholic official, Archbishop Robert Carlson.
Last month, under oath, Carlson:
– claimed 193 times that he didn't recall specifics about clergy sex abuse cases,
– admitted that he never once called police to report abuse in 24 years as a Catholic official in Minnesota, and
– said he wasn't sure if he knew in the 1980s whether child sex abuse was illegal (even though he was well-educated, around 40 years old, and a high ranking member of the Twin Cities Catholic hierarchy).
A firestorm of criticism, from conservative and liberal Catholics, has erupted and articles and commentators from coast-to-coast have pilloried Carlson.
In a new statement issued today, Carlson now claims:
– the news media is allegedly “re-opening the wounds” of clergy sex abuse victims
– he's “being maligned for his inability to recall certain events,” and
– he “has been a leader in the Church” on sexual abuse involving the clergy.
SNAP disputes both claims and is challenging Carlson to debate what he calls his “exemplary” record.
SNAP also predicts that Carlson's legal controversies will worsen because, for perhaps the first time ever, the archdiocese is facing three egregious clergy sex abuse and cover up cases (including one for wrongful death stemming from a suicide), all of which are within the statute of limitations and thus may end up in court.
Under Carlson's reign, the archdiocese has for the first time ever succeeded in getting a clergy sex abuse and cover up case tossed out by using a novel argument: that the predator priest molested “off premises,” at a private home, not on church grounds, so Catholic officials are not responsible. Now, Kansas City's bishop is using the same argument to block abuse cases.
In February, the Missouri Supreme Court turned down an appeal of this ruling, which SNAP calls an unprecedented, “bizarre and dangerous.”
The decision means that a school whose teacher sexually assaults a girl in the school parking lot can be sued, but a school whose teacher sexually assaults a girl in a parking lot across the street, cannot be.
In March of 2010, St. Louis City Circuit Court Judge Donald McMullin found:
– that the victim in this case “has evidence” that the archdiocese knew a priest “had a history of sexual abuse,
– that leaving (the priest) alone with children was “certain. . .to result in harm to (others),”
disregarded that known risk, and, as a result, (at least one boy) was sexually abused by (the priest.)”
The victim, a St. Louis man named Paul Alvino, was abused at a “clubhouse” on the Big River from 1970 to 1971 by Fr. Thomas Cooper. Alvino filed his suit in 2005.
Alvino’s case is believed to be the first time in Missouri history that church officials have successfully used this “off premises” argument.
Missouri kids will be less safe now, SNAP contends, because it will be virtually impossible for many child sex crime victims to expose their predators in court, and employers will have less incentive to be careful about who they hire.
Church officials often get clergy sex cases tossed out of court using other technical defenses, notably the statute of limitations. So even though the Catholic hierarchy has used the “not on church property” tactic before, until now, it’s never been the sole reason that a clergy sex abuse case was rejected by a court.
SNAP calls the church’s move “possibly the most mean-spirited legal maneuver in archdiocesan history.”
Cooper was ordained in 1955, retired in 1993, died in 2003, and worked in St. Louis city (at Mary Magdalene parish, where he met Alvino), Webster Groves, Hazelwood, University City, and Jennings.
David Clohessy 314 566 9790 cell, [email protected], Robert Schutzius 314 837 0678