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  Suit Claimed Priest Fathered Child by Rape

By Art Golab
Chicago Sun-Times
April 28, 2002

She was still a young woman when she left Poland and moved to Chicago's Southwest Side seeking a better life.

Instead, she was raped by the priest who sponsored her, she contends in a suit filed last October, and gave birth to his child--though he urged her to have an abortion.

DNA tests arranged by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago prove that the priest, Walter Strus, is indeed the child's father, according to court papers. But the church's lawyers countered with an unexpected defense--the church was not responsible for Strus' conduct while he was off-duty and off church property.

"The Catholic bishop did not have a duty to track Father Strus when he was away from the parish, on a private frolic, to discover what he might be doing in secret with plaintiff or others," the church's lawyers wrote.

The church's lawyers also argued that the young woman has failed to prove that Strus' superiors knew what he was up to, required under state law to prove negligence.

On Friday, Circuit Court Judge Philip Bronstein agreed, and dismissed the case. Bronstein gave the woman's attorney, John Winters, permission to refile the suit with additional allegations within seven days.

"We had no way of knowing his propensity to act that way, and they gave no evidence that we knew and we didn't know," said James Dwyer, spokesman for the archdiocese.

Winters argues that the archdiocese' legal protections cease to exist if Strus' superiors were aware of his sexual indiscretions.

"This priest has a reputation," Winters said. "We're going to add new allegations. We'll be as specific as we can." But he added, "We're dealing with people who don't want to come forward unless they absolutely have to."

Winters said Strus was transferred to four parishes in six years. "I have a tendency to believe those moves weren't just because he wanted to see the whole city," Winters said. "I think there was something more to this."

The suit alleges that Strus invited the woman to move to Chicago, found her a job taking care of an elderly woman, and raped her at the woman's home on Oct. 15, 1999.

When she became pregnant, she alleges, Strus first urged her to get an abortion, then encouraged her to have the baby adopted.

Strus found an apartment for the woman and paid the rent by taking up a second collection at his church, Five Holy Martyrs, Winters said. But Strus kicked her out when she decided to keep the child, who was born in July, Winters said.

"Strus told her to keep her mouth shut," he said. "She could be deported. That's why she didn't report anything. He seduced her and coerced her with his collar."

Strus was not available for comment.

 
 

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