Press Release



Press Release


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Release
Giving Voice to Victims


For immediate release:
Tuesday, June 7

For more information:
David Clohessy, SNAP National Director, 314 566 9790

New Missouri Ruling May Mean More Priest Abuse Trials

Sex Abuse Victims Praise New Court Decision

Lawsuit Against Prominent Catholic School Moves Forward

Advocates for molestation victims are praising a Missouri Court of Appeals ruling may mean more civil trials and larger settlement awards in civil clergy sex abuse cases.

Late last week, the court said that a former Chaminade student, Michael Powel, could sue the St. Louis archdiocese, the school, the religious order that runs the school, and two clerics who worked there: Father William Christensen, and Brother John J. Woulfe. The two teachers molested Powel when he attended Chaminade in the 1970s.

Catholic officials claimed that Powel, now 46, should have come forward sooner. He filed his suit in June 2002, just two years after he recovered memories of the abuse.

But the Court of Appeals said it's up to a jury to decide whether Powel's lawsuit is timely.

"This is a huge victory," said Barbara Dorris of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. "More and more survivors want to bring their perpetrator, and those who shielded him, to court. More want to see the truth emerge through sworn depositions and testmony. This ruling makes those trials more likely."

The decision contradicts an older Missouri ruling, HRB v. Rigali. In that 2000 decision, a St. Louis jury's $1.2 million award to a victim of Father James Gummersbach was overturned because a higher court determined the victim should have initiated legal action sooner.

This ruling is part of a nationwide trend toward more justice for victims and fewer breaks for predators," said Clohessy "All across the country, judges are realizing that rigid time constraints on abuse victims allows molesters to keep molesting and jeopardizes vulnerable children today."

Last week's Court of Appeals decision will likely end up before the Missouri Supreme Court.

In light of that decision however, Dorris predicts, local church officials are likely to offer more in settlements with abuse victims.

"Last fall, the archdiocesan lawyer publicly said 'I can beat (the victims) in court and they know it.' There was some truth behind this insensitive remark," she said. "Now, that's much less certain, so the archdiocese may have to be more reasonable during settlement talks."

She mentioned a recent instance in which $15,000 was offered to a local victim of a priest now serving a life sentence for molesting boys in Massachusetts.

"Few other dioceses propose such insulting settlements," she said.

Both Clohessy and Dorris expressed appreciation and praise for Powel.
"We're very grateful that Michael has the courage to come forward, expose his abusers, warn parents about them, and seek justice," said Clohessy. "We're also encouraged by this ruling, which makes it slightly less difficult for victims to get the truth about these terrible crimes told through our legal system."

"Michael has suffered tremendously and at least deserves his day in court," Dorris said.

Powel, who now lives in Florida, is represented by St. Louis attorney Joseph Bauer. Gerard Noce and Matthew W. Potter represent Chaminade.

Other local attorneys handing clergy sex abuse cases include Susan Carlson and Ken Chackes of University City. Also involved in most such cases is St. Paul MN attorney Patrick Noaker (612 961 1307).

Molestation cases await ruling

Kansas City Star
Sat, June 04, 2005

Sixteen Jackson County lawsuits alleging past child molestation by Catholic priests have been put on hold until the Missouri Supreme Court answers a key question.

At issue is when the five-year statute of limitations begins to run on child-molestation cases. The appeals court in Kansas City has ruled that it begins at age 21, but the appeals court in St. Louis said it begins when a person remembers repressed memories.

The St. Louis ruling, which was issued this week, criticized rulings by the Kansas City-based court. The St. Louis appeals court asked the state Supreme Court to resolve the matter.

Jackson County judges say they cannot act on the 16 cases until that is done, which could take months.

The St. Louis court ruled that a 46-year-old man could sue a college prep school where, he said, two priests sexually abused him when he was from 15 to 17 years old. The man contended that he repressed memories of the abuse until 2000. He sued in 2002. A lower court dismissed the case for being filed past the statute of limitations.

In the 16 Jackson County lawsuits filed since fall 2003, about 30 plaintiffs accuse five former Kansas City priests of sexually abusing them as children. Four of the men — Thomas Reardon, Joseph Hart, Thomas J. O’Brien and Francis McGlynn — have said they are innocent. The fifth, Hugh Monahan, has not been reached for comment.
To reach Joe Lambe, call (816) 234-4314 or send e-mail to [email protected]


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests