|Group: Church Hid Abuse for 30 Years
Despite Confession, Officials Did Not Act
Associated Press, carried in Belleville News-Democrat
May 4, 2007
St. Louis — A priest signed a written confession in 1978 admitting to sexual abuse of boys, but the Archdiocese of St. Louis allowed him to continue serving parishes for more than a decade after that, a victims' rights group said Thursday.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, announced a settlement of a lawsuit against the Rev. Donald "Duck" Straub over abuse that happened in 1973 and 1974, when Straub, then a seminary student, was working at Resurrection Parish in St. Louis. The victim was 13 when the abuse began.
SNAP officials said that in 1978, parents of other children at the parish came forward alleging sexual abuse, prompting a confession signed by Straub and witnessed by Bishop John Wurm, who is now deceased.
"I acknowledge the allegations are true and I will be happy to abide by any decision his Eminence will make receptive to the help and assistance I may need to enable me to cope with this problem," Straub said in the handwritten letter.
Straub, now 58 and reportedly living in St. Louis County, did not have a listed phone number.
Despite the confession, Straub remained an active priest through at least 1991. Straub served at Our Lady Queen of Peace in House Springs in Jefferson County in 1979 and 1980, then worked at St. Charles Borromeo from 1980 to 1986 before taking a four-year leave of absence.
He then served at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Dodge City, Kan., in 1990 and 1991. After that, he returned to St. Louis, but was barred from performing any duties as a priest, St. Louis Monsignor Richard Stika said. Straub was defrocked in 2005.
It wasn't clear if Straub faced allegations of wrongdoing in Kansas. An official with the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Stika said the archbishop at the time of the 1978 confession did what he thought was best based on understanding of abuse at that time, noting that Straub was sent away for counseling and treatment.
"It was the advice of the medical people involved in the program that he could be returned to the ministry," Stika said. Now, if a priest is diagnosed as a sexual predator, "there is no cure. They're dealt with by trying to protect society from individuals with this disorder."
SNAP officials said Straub faces allegations from at least six other accusers. Two allege abuse of children at parishes after the 1978 confession — one at St. Charles Borromeo and one at Our Lady Queen of Peace.
SNAP director David Clohessy called the 1978 document "by far the oldest and clearest evidence that the archdiocese knew about a predator and kept silent for this long.
"It's one thing to say 30 years ago there were allegations against this guy," Clohessy said. "It's another to have a signed confession by him and yet they kept him in ministry for roughly another decade and it took them almost 20 years after that before he was defrocked."
The victim's attorney, Ken Chackes, said the man filed suit in October. A settlement was reached April 27. Terms were not disclosed. The man also contacted police in the St. Louis suburb Shrewsbury last year about the past abuse. A police spokesman declined comment on the criminal investigation.
Chackes said the abuse happened at Kenrick Seminary, at a lake house used by Straub, at Straub's parents' home, and at other locations.
"He (Straub) would spend a lot of time with him doing fun things during the day, and then mix that with evil things at night," Chackes said.
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