Repressed memories: Veteran alleges sex abuse by Catholic priest. He's suing decades later.

When he was 12, Robert McGowen went to catechism class. His mother was Southern Baptist, but his father was Catholic, so he attended classes at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hattiesburg.

It was the mid-1980s and his priest was the Rev. John Scanlon. 

Some days, McGowen's dad would be late picking him up from class. When that happened, McGowen said, Scanlon would take him into the rectory. For 35 years, McGowen said he repressed the memories of what happened to him.

Now he can't forget.

His attorney, John Hawkins, believes McGowen's repressed memories of sexual abuse have delayed the statute of limitations. Under that unique approach, a civil suit was filed last month against Scanlon's estate, Church of Sacred Heart and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, which the church falls under. 

"In this case, the statute of limitation could not have started running against him until he was aware of the wrong that was done," Hawkins said.

Now 47 and living in Benton County, Arkansas, McGowen said the only thing he remembered for decades from catechism classes was being told "masturbation was considered self-abuse."

"For years, I always thought, 'Why is that sticking out in my mind?'" But the military veteran and county official pushed the question out of his head.

Then, one day late last year, he was sitting at his desk at work when a thought unexpectedly occurred to him. 

"Something with you and Scanlon, somethi...

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