State High Court Will Hear Cases against Church

Tennessean [Tennessee]
Downloaded March 25, 2004

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the cases of two young men who said the Catholic Church should be held liable for their being molested as children by former priest Edward McKeown.

The decision, made earlier this week, comes after Davidson County Circuit Judge Walter Kurtz dismissed the suit and the state Court of Appeals upheld his ruling.

Kurtz dismissed the case in June 2001, saying the sexual abuse of the two occurred long after McKeown was forced to leave the priesthood, so the church should not be held accountable.

The two were abused 1994-1998 after he met them in a mobile home park where he lived after he was forced to leave the priesthood in 1989. McKeown is serving a 25-year prison sentence for molesting one of the men. Kurtz ruled the two young men could not recover damages from the diocese based on the alleged failure of church officials to report McKeown to police when they learned in the 1980s he had molested two boys several years earlier.

Lawyers for the young men, arguing under the legal theory of outrageous conduct, allege that the two never would have been molested if church officials had investigated McKeown more aggressively and reported him to police. One of the attorneys, John Day, has pointed to McKeown's 1986 admission during treatment required by the church that he had molested 30 boys over the previous 14 years.

Each is asking for $8 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.

Sheila Burke