3 Ex-Altar Boys Sue BR Catholic Diocese
Suits Renew Abuse Issue

By Adrian Angelette
The Advocate [Baton Rouge LA]
December 28, 2006

Three more former altar boys have sued a one-time Baton Rouge area priest and the diocese, claiming they were sexually assaulted by him in the late 1970s.

The latest lawsuit, filed Wednesday in state district court in Baton Rouge, brings to 16 the number of former altar boys who claim Christopher Springer sexually assaulted them.

The lawsuit comes roughly a month after the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge settled a suit with one former altar boy. Terms of the settlement were confidential, though a diocesan attorney said the case was settled for less than $100,000.

The diocese has settled lawsuits with seven former altar boys. The other nine cases remain active in the 19th Judicial District.

All of the plaintiffs are represented by Houston attorney Felecia Peavy. On Wednesday, Peavy described the matter as a "sad social issue" that must be addressed.

"No victim can be left behind," Peavy said. "Every victim deserves to have closure."

The former altar boys contend the diocese knew or should have been aware of the abuse but did nothing to stop it. Instead, the diocese moved Springer to other churches, where the abuse continued, the lawsuits allege.

Charles Cusimano, an attorney for the diocese, and the Very Rev. John Carville, vicar general of the diocese, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

But church officials have said the diocese was unaware of the accusations against Springer until 1985 and quickly dismissed him from the diocese after learning of the allegations.

Diocesan officials have said they review each case to determine whether the claims have merit. Church officials say the diocese settles cases found to have merit and offers counseling to the former altar boys.

Carville has said Springer is one of six priests removed from the diocese after allegations of sexual abuse were raised by former altar boys. Cusimano has said all of the accusations stem from alleged actions at least 20 years ago and there are no allegations of sexual abuse against any current priests in the diocese.

Two of the former altar boys in the lawsuit filed Wednesday now live in Pointe Coupee Parish. The third lives in Orange County, Calif., the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says the sexual assaults took place between 1975 and 1979 while Springer served in a position of authority for the devoutly catholic families. The latest abuses, according to the lawsuit, occurred at the church rectories of St. Mary's of False River Catholic Church and St. Pius X Catholic Church and at other places owned by the diocese at the time.

The plaintiffs claim the abuse caused deep emotional scars "so severe as to constitute a disability." The lawsuit also says delay in treatment worsened the psychological problems.

The Advocate has been unable to locate Springer for comment on the lawsuits.


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