|Clergy Sexual Abuse Victims Ask Redemptorists to Drop Defense of Defrocked Priest
By Bruce Nolan
June 8, 2011
A group representing victims of clergy sexual abuse stood outside the federal courthouse in New Orleans on Wednesday, calling on the Catholic church to accept legal responsibility in a case involving a priest long ago defrocked for molesting children.
Barbara Dorris, of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, urged the church to step away from Christoff Springer, who served in the New Orleans area before moving to the Baton Rouge area in 1973.
She also urged any silent victims of Springer, also known as Christopher Springer, to come forward and seek help. News reports on Springer's career indicated he worked at Our Lady of Lourdes in Slidell and the former St. Alphonsus parish in New Orleans, but that could not be immediately confirmed.
Houston attorney Felecia Peavy said Springer has acknowledged molesting more than 30 children. She provided documents indicating that the Vatican defrocked Springer in 1990 because of his abuse of children.
Peavy represents 19 victims of Springer and has reached settlements with the Diocese of Baton Rouge in nine cases in state court.
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Thursday in which Peavy, representing Charles Bishop, another Springer victim, will argue that a lower court erred in issuing a summary judgment in favor of Springer and his Redemptorist superiors
Bishop is also challenging the Redemptorists' First Amendment argument that asking courts to decide a priest's duty to his congregants excessively involves the courts in church business, Peavy said.
The Redemptoristsí attorney, Don Richard, was not available for comment.
Bishop, 43, who works in construction in Ocala, Fla., said Springer molested him and others in the Baton Rouge area in the late 1970s, beginning when he was 9.
Bishop said he is still in counseling. "He ruins lives," he said of Springer.
Dorris said that in the federal case, the Redemptorist order has no business defending itself from the consequences of Springer's actions.
"This is criminal activity," she said.
Court documents describe Springer, now 85, as a New Orleans native. He reportedly lives in retirement outside New Orleans. His last telephone number is disconnected.
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