Bishop Kinney Dismissed from Abuse Lawsuit

Associated Press, carried in Grand Forks Herald [St. Cloud MN]
March 19, 2005

ST. CLOUD, Minn. - Bishop John Kinney was dismissed from a lawsuit that accuses a former St. Cloud Diocese priest of sexual abuse, and a Stearns County judge ruled there was no evidence Kinney knew the former priest was dangerous.

The diocese and former priest James Thoennes remain defendants in the lawsuit filed by Wayne Eller, according to this week's ruling by District Court Judge Elizabeth Hayden.

Roger Schmitt, an attorney for the diocese, said the diocese was reviewing the ruling and it's too early to know whether it would appeal, the St. Cloud Times reported in its Friday editions.

Eller's attorney, Jeff Anderson, said the diocese previously agreed to two settlement options and that the ruling triggers the higher of the two. Neither Schmitt nor Anderson would disclose the settlement amount, but Anderson called it "modest."

"This is a very important determination by the court for this survivor to put an end to this painful chapter of horror," said Anderson.

Eller's lawsuit accuses Thoennes of molesting him in the mid-1960s at a Sauk Centre home where Thoennes' parents lived.

Hayden's order said there was no evidence Kinney knew or should reasonably have been expected to know Thoennes was potentially dangerous.

This was the second lawsuit accusing Thoennes of sexually abusing a student. The other was filed in the early 1990s and was settled before trial.

In that lawsuit, Thoennes admitted molesting at least four young people in three parishes from the 1960s to 1980s.

Eller's lawsuit accused the diocese of either negligently not knowing about Thoennes' abuse or of knowing about it but doing nothing.

Defense attorneys argued that Eller waited too long to file the claims.

Anderson acknowledged that his client's claims are well outside the statute of limitations. But he argued that because Eller repressed the memory of the abuse for years, the clock didn't start until recently.

The diocese said Eller knew of the abuse as early as 1970 when he was in the Red Wing reformatory and Thoennes came to visit him. Eller told reformatory personnel that he would kill Thoennes if the priest was allowed to visit him.


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