Supreme Court of South Dakota Allows Child Sex Assault Lawsuit against Milwaukee Based Religious Order
By John Pilmaier
January 9, 2012
It is being reported today that the Supreme Court of South Dakota has decided to allow a child sexual assault lawsuit involving the Priests of the Sacred Heart to move forward. The suit was filed on behalf of eight Native American children who report that they were sexually assaulted as children at St. Joseph’s Indian Mission School. The Priests of the Sacred Heart had attempted to have the case dismissed claiming the plaintiffs had not followed proper process serving procedures.
St. Joseph’s Indian Mission School in South Dakota is operated by the Priests of the Sacred Heart, a religious order of priests and brothers based in Hales Corners Wisconsin. The order operates Sacred Heart School of Theology, the largest seminary in the United States that trains men over the age of 30 for the priesthood.
The lawsuit names the Priests of the Sacred Heart and members of their community including Father William Pitcavage, Father Thomas Lind, and Brother Matthew Miles as defendants. Pitcavage, who had been elected the Order’s Vice Provincial, and Lind were both removed from ministry following reports of sexual assault at the boarding school.
In August Mary Gorski, spokesperson for the Priests of the Sacred Heart, indicated that Lind and Pitcavage were returned to ministry after they were “cleared” of the sexual assault charges by the “Milwaukee Area Review Board”. The Milwaukee Area Review Board was created by the catholic religious orders in the archdiocese of Milwaukee to “advise” them when reports of sexual assault are made against members of their order.
Following published reports that Pitcavage and Lind had been “cleared” of all charges by the review board, members of the board came forward to indicate that they did not have enough information to make a formal recommendation about the charges, and that they in fact did not “clear” the priests as the spokesperson for the order claimed. Board member Jim Freiburger stated “We do not in any way attempt to determine guilt or innocence”. Gorski then claimed that the priests were “cleared” based on an e-mail from Brother Mark Carrico, a Capuchin friar who was on the board at the time.
The Priests of the Sacred Heart could immediately clear up the confusion surrounding Fathers Pitcavage and Lind, and Brother Matthew Miles by immediately releasing the names and sexual assault report histories for all the clergy in their order. It is deeply alarming that reports indicate that Pitcavage is returned to ministry and living in Franklin, and Lind is living possibly unsupervised in Mississippi.
In light of the filing for bankruptcy by the archdiocese of Milwaukee the Priests of the Sacred Heart should immediately reach out to anyone who may have been harmed by a member of their order and inform them that they are eligible to file a confidential claim for restitution before the February 1, 2012 bankruptcy bar date deadline.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org.