|In Response to Lawsuit, Diocese Says Personnel Decisions Private
By Edith Brady-lunny
November 6, 2008
PEORIA - Personnel decisions regarding Catholic priests are exempt from civil court review, according to a response by the Catholic Diocese of Peoria to a lawsuit filed by a man who claims he was sexually abused as a student by a former Twin City priest. | Ex-Epiphany priest set for hearing on cocaine charges
Andrew Ward, now 20, filed a lawsuit in June accusing now-retired Monsignor Thomas Maloney of sexually abusing him at Epiphany Catholic Church between 1995 and 1996. The Pantagraph does not routinely name victims of alleged abuse, but Ward asked to be publicly identified.
The action against Maloney and the diocese alleges Maloney “engaged in unpermitted, harmful and offensive sexual conduct” with the boy while the boy was in second grade.
In its written response, filed Oct. 24, the diocese cites constitutional protections from review of church policies on hiring, supervision and firing of priests. If the lawsuit goes forward, the courts could be asked to evaluate Catholic Church doctrine and religious principles related to personnel policies, the response states.
Allowing such a review “may even change church doctrine by creating new personnel policies and procedures to be followed by Catholic churches on the supervision of priests who are performing counseling activities,” the diocese argued in documents filed by Peoria attorney Joseph Feehan.
The diocese had an obligation to supervise Maloney’s activities while he worked as a priest in Central Illinois churches, according to the lawsuit filed by Ward, who now lives in Michigan.
Diocesan officials were aware of previous allegations of abuse by Maloney involving a woman who said she was molested as a child in the 1970s, the lawsuit charges. The diocese took no action to protect children from Maloney based upon the woman’s claims, submitted to the diocese prior to Ward’s alleged abuse, according to the lawsuit.
But the diocese argues Ward’s lawsuit lacks specific details of what teachers and others may have known about alleged misconduct by Maloney. The diocese also argues it cannot be held liable for sexual misconduct by priests because such behavior is outside the scope of employment as a matter of law.
Before his retirement in 2003, Maloney held assignments at churches in Ottawa, East Peoria, Chenoa and Lexington. He came to Epiphany in 1995.
Normal police investigated accusations involving Maloney and turned information over to the McLean County State’s Attorney’s office, which declined to file criminal charges.
A Nov. 21 hearing is scheduled to review the status of the lawsuit.
Alleged cocaine sales
In a separate case involving criminal allegations against a former Epiphany priest, a Nov. 25 pre-trial hearing is set in Champaign County on allegations against the Rev. Chris Layden.
The 34-year-old priest is accused of selling and using cocaine at the Newman Center at the University of Illinois.
Layden has pleaded innocent to the charges and remains free after posting $5,000.
He was removed from his duties by the diocese after his arrest in September. He served at Epiphany from 2003 to 2005 and also taught at Central Catholic High School before his transfer to Urbana.
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