Woman Sues St. Louis Archdiocese, Claims Abuse by Pastor As Child

By Valerie Schremp Hahn
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
October 24, 2011

Joseph Ross

A 19-year-old woman has sued the St. Louis Archdiocese, claiming she was molested by a pastor at St. Cronan Church in St. Louis for several years when she was a young girl.

The woman also claims that the archdiocese knew that the priest, Joseph Ross, 68, had pleaded guilty in 1988 to sexually assaulting a minor during confession at a University City church, but the archdiocese put him in a parish setting where he was around children again anyway.

"To me, that just shows a gross lack of supervision, and just needlessly placing children in danger," the woman's attorney, Ken Chackes, said.

Said the woman in a written statement: "The faith that was supposed to nurture me robbed me of my community, trust and childhood, poisoning me with nightmares, flashbacks, and fears."

Ross got two years of probation for the earlier abuse case, involving an 11-year-old boy whom he admitted abusing in 1986.

In the suit, filed Monday in St. Louis, the woman says that after the conviction the the archdiocese sent Ross to a mental health treatment facility in Maryland. After his time at the facility, the archdiocese assigned him to St. Cronan's. A priest who worked at the parish asked two officials with the archdiocese whether Ross was fit to return to the church as a pastor, and the officials assured him Ross was "not a danger to others," the suit says.

The woman said she saw Ross on most Sundays and when she attended church with her family, and often she went to the church with her mother as she participated in functions there. The woman says that between 1997 and 2001, Ross repeatedly sexually abused her in the church and in other parts of the parish, telling her that by complying, she "was doing what God intended for her," and that he "liked boys more than girls" and she was "helping him to overcome that issue."

The suit also names Ross and Archbishop Robert Carlson. "The archdiocese will review the lawsuit when it is received and investigate the complaint," according to a statement from the archdiocese.

In August 2002, Ross became the first priest from the St. Louis archdiocese laicized, or defrocked, for abusing minors. The archdiocese said it does not know where Ross is currently.

Ross faced criminal charges of statutory rape, statutory sodomy and child molestation in St. Louis, but those charges were were dropped in 2010. The charges involved a girl who claimed abuse from 1998 to 2000 at St. Cronan's. The archdiocese said the new civil case involves the same girl.

Chackes would not confirm the current case involves the same girl as the one in the criminal case, but did note that Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said at the time that she had "full confidence in the victim's allegations." Chackes said Monday he hoped the criminal case would be revived.

Defense attorney Scott Rosenblum said at the time the charges were dropped that the allegations unraveled during the accuser's deposition.


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