Judge Denies Church's Summary Judgment Request

Associated Press State & Local Wire
July 7, 2004

A judge denied a request by the Catholic Diocese of Jackson to issue a summary judgment Wednesday in a case filed by two men who alleged they were sexually abused by Father James Kircher.

The order said the victims, named only as John Does 6 and 7, want accountability for all church officials "responsible for the incalculable emotional and psychological damage ... they will continue to suffer for the remainder of their lives."

The suit brought against the Diocese not only targets Kircher for allegedly molesting young boys but the church hierarchy who "were involved in a cover up of massive proportions," the order said. The case stems from a lawsuit filed by four plaintiffs in 2002 who claimed they were sexually abused at St. Mary Catholic Church in Shelby and at St. Therese Catholic Church in Jackson between 1974 and 1984.

The order issued Wednesday by Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter said the church responded to the victims pursuit of accountability "with a motion for summary judgment, which means (the church) is asking this Court to summarily dismiss their claims, denying them the forum for a jury to even consider their grievances."

Johnny Rainer, director of the Mississippi Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, praised DeLaughter's order.

"SNAP and John Does 6 and 7 are very pleased that the court saw fit to allow their claims to move forward and guarantee these plaintiffs their constitutionals rights," Rainer said.

DeLaughter had dismissed a case last year and ruled in May that two other plaintiffs gave up their rights to seek an exception to the statute of limitations when they entered into a settlement with the Diocese in 1994.

State law provides that if an offense occurred before 1989 involving a minor, he or she has six years from their 21st birthday to file their lawsuit.

The Diocese sought a summary judgment in the cases of John Does 6 and 7 on the same statue of limitations.

But DeLaughter, in the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, ruled that John Does 6 and 7 "did not know or understand the tortuous nature of the nonviolent consensual sexual acts in which they engaged with Father James Kircher until well within the statute of limitations."

The order noted that a survey commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops documented more than 11,000 accusations of abuse against almost 4,500 priests between 1950 and 2002.


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