Minn. Woman's Lawsuit over Priest Who Abused Her Will Name Diocese of Fall River
By Brian Fraga
Fall River Herald News
June 21, 2013
A high-profile attorney who has represented hundreds of sexual abuse victims in litigation involving the Catholic Church will file a lawsuit on Monday that names the Diocese of Fall River as a defendant for the actions of the late Rev. James Porter, a notorious predator-priest.
The lawsuit will be filed in a courthouse in Crookston, Minn., on behalf of a Minnesota woman, now in her 50s, who was abused by Porter, said Jeff Anderson, a civil attorney.
“This is designed to both help the survivor that was so deeply wounded by (Porter) but also to encourage disclosure and full exposure of the history that in some ways is not fully known,” Anderson said.
At the press conference Monday, Anderson will call for the release of internal church documents on all credible abuse accusations against Porter, who authorities have said abused more than 100 children in multiple states, including Minnesota, Massachusetts, Texas and New Mexico.
Anderson is also requesting the release of credibly accused and admitted child molesters from both the Diocese of Crookston, Minn., and the Diocese of Fall River, along with the list of names of priests who have admitted to child sexual abuse to the Servants of the Paraclete, a Catholic religious community.
“We’ll be demanding that the information be released by the defendants,” Anderson said.
John Kearns, the director of communications for the Diocese of Fall River, could not be reached late Friday. An email message sent after normal business hours was not returned.
The Porter scandal rocked the Diocese of Fall River several years before the nationwide clergy sex abuse story broke in 2002. Authorities said Porter abused about 100 young boys and girls at parishes in North Attleboro, New Bedford and Fall River over a 30-year period beginning in the 1960s.
In December 1993, Porter was convicted of molesting 28 children and was sentenced to 18 to 20 years in state prison. He died from cancer at age 70 in February 2005 at New England Medical Center.
Beginning in the early 1990s, dozens of lawsuits were filed against Porter in several states, including Minnesota, Texas and New Mexico, where he had probationary parish assignments. He was charged with more than 200 counts of sexual abuse in Minnesota, according to published reports.
Porter was defrocked as a priest in 1973 after he wrote a letter to Pope Paul VI admitting that he had molested children in several states, according to published reports.
The Porter scandal prompted Sean O’Malley, who became the bishop of the Fall River Diocese in 1992, to establish a new system of reporting sex abuse allegations that included an independent review board to examine allegations. O’Malley, who is now the cardinal archbishop of Boston, also required any person in the Diocese of Fall River with access to children to undergo background criminal checks and attend abuse prevention workshops.
The late Rev. James Porter was convicted of sexually abusing children across multiple states
But before O’Malley’s policies, records that have been released show Porter was reassigned to parishes after abuse allegations were filed against him and that he was sent to ineffective mental health counseling. Anderson said the Diocese of Fall River sent Porter out of state to “protect their reputations.”
“These leaders knew they had a serious risk with (Porter) and they chose to take the risk and imperil kids,” said Anderson, who noted that the lawsuit is being filed in Minnesota, a state that has done away with the statute of limitations for sex abuse cases.
Anderson said more details about the plaintiff’s case, including the lawsuit, will be released Monday.
Email Brian Fraga at firstname.lastname@example.org.