A settlement has been reached in a civil lawsuit against the Archdiocese of St. Louis and a defrocked St. Louis priest.
The trial was to have begun this morning against the archdiocese and former priest Joseph D. Ross. A young woman claims she was abused by Ross from1997 to 2001 while attending St. Cronan Catholic Church. The abuse began when she was 5 or 6 years old, alleges the woman, known only as Jane Doe in the lawsuit.
The woman's attorneys planned to argue in the trial that there was a pattern by the archdiocese of covering up abuse claims and that church leaders knew that failing to disclose past problems could cause new ones.
Ross had been convicted of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy at a parish in University City decades ago.
Ross was sent away for treatment, then reassigned to St. Cronan’s, where he allegedly abused the woman, who was 19 when she fiiled the lawsuit in 2011.
The Archdiocese in February complied with a judge’s order to turn over the names of priests who were accused of sexually abusing minors over a 20-year period, along with the names and contact information of victims.
A court-ordered seal made the information available only to the judge and lawyers involved.
The archdiocese had previously submitted an anonymous matrix of 240 complaints against 115 church employees over a 20-year period ending in 2003.
But it did not specify how many of the group were nonclergy, and some of the complaints pertained to members of separate religious orders. Neither of those groups is covered by the court order.
The Ross case was poised to become only the second child sexual abuse case against the St. Louis archdiocese to make it to trial, and it would be the first since the priest abuse scandal erupted nationwide in 2002.
Most other lawsuits against the archdiocese — roughly 60 since 2002 — have either been settled or dismissed. The St. Louis archdiocese has spent more than $10 million on costs related to sexual abuse since 2004, according to its 2013 annual report.
The archdiocese is holding a press conference this morning to announce the settlement. Check back with stltoday.com for more details.