Four More Lawsuits Filed against St. Louis Area Priest

By Jim Salter
The Associated Press, carried in Times-Picayune [St. Louis MO]
July 8, 2003

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Four more lawsuits filed Tuesday bring to seven the number alleging sexual abuse of children by a longtime St. Louis area Roman Catholic priest, and many of the suits suggested strikingly similar scenarios.

The Rev. Michael S. McGrath would offer boys and girls -- some barely old enough to reach the pedals -- a chance to drive his van on outings to ball games, an amusement park or to get ice cream, attorney Pat Noaker said. With other children in the back, McGrath would allegedly reach over and fondle the driver.

"He had a seat bolted into the center of the van so that he could do this," Noaker said.

Two previous lawsuits filed last month were from women now in their early 20s who claimed they were also abused by McGrath in his van. The victims said McGrath took a high school group on a trip to New Orleans in 1992, pulled over, and assaulted them separately while the students initially were asleep.

All seven suits seek unspecified damages and name the Archdiocese of St. Louis along with McGrath, 57, of the St. Louis suburb Richmond Heights.

A spokesman for the archdiocese didn't return phone calls Tuesday seeking comment, but officials have said McGrath was removed from the priesthood in 1997 after allegations of sexual abuse came to light. Calls to McGrath's home were met with busy signals. McGrath served at several St. Louis area parishes starting in 1975.

The string of suits began June 10 when the family of Christopher Klump claimed years of childhood sexual abuse tormented the ex-Marine, leading to his suicide in March.

Klump's brother, Ronald, 33, was among those filing suit Tuesday. Ronald Klump said he was abused from 1982 to 1985 while a member of St. Bernadette's Church in St. Louis County.

Also suing Tuesday were Herb Graham, 33, of Decatur, Ill., allegedly abused from 1983 to 1987 while a member of St. Simon's Church in St. Louis County; Don Clark, 33, of St. Louis County, allegedly abused in 1986 and 1987 while a member of St. Simon's; and an unidentified woman, 38, now of Texas, allegedly abused from 1978 to 1981 while a member of St. Patrick's Church in Wentzville.

Graham said that, like Christopher Klump, feelings of guilt over childhood abuse drove him to attempt suicide.

Graham recalled that McGrath took groups of children on regular trips to the Six Flags Over St. Louis amusement park and other outings. Graham said he was just 10 when he was first abused while driving Graham's van.

Graham said he tried to kill himself in 1999 by crashing a motorcycle. He lived, but is on permanent disability because of head injuries.

Officials with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, fear there are more victims.

"We think it's crucial that the archdiocese reach out to those parishes where this man served and tell parishioners it's their Christian or civic duty to come forward and tell law enforcement if they have any information," SNAP president David Clohessy said.


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