March 07, 2005

Approach to sex-abuse lawsuits varies widely

The Kansas City Star

By KEVIN MURPHY The Kansas City Star

In both Kansas City and St. Louis, priests have been the target of many sexual-abuse lawsuits in recent years.

The allegations are similar — that some priests abused children, mostly boys, in the 1970s and 1980s and that the church hierarchy knew of the misconduct but failed to take much, if any, action.

The responses to the lawsuits, however, are quite different.

The Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis has taken most of the lawsuits right to mediation, settling 31 of 40 recent cases for $2.4 million and agreeing to send letters of apology to victims.

The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, meanwhile, is contesting all 16 pending lawsuits in court and has filed several dozen motions to strike language, seek more details or dismiss cases.

The motions have met with mixed success; only one of the lawsuits was dismissed.

The diocesan motions frustrate plaintiffs in Kansas City, said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“There is a difference between fighting on the merits and fighting on technicalities,” Clohessy said.

The Rev. Patrick Rush, diocesan vicar general, said the diocese is following lawyers' advice in fighting the lawsuits.

Posted by kshaw at March 7, 2005 06:55 AM