Documents Surrounding Former Hastings Priest, Thomas Stitts, Released
By Chad Richardson
Hastings Star Gazette
August 14, 2014
Documents regarding former Guardian Angels pastor Thomas Stitts were released to the public on Thursday. The documents were released following a ruling in other cases relating to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Stitts was an assistant pastor at the Church of Guardian Angels in Hastings from 1966 to 1970. The suit alleges Stitts abused boys at several of the parishes he worked at. Stitts later admitted to have a sexual relationship with two boys.
Twin Cities law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates has filed lawsuits on behalf of 12 victims who say they were abused by Stitts.
We applaud the courageous survivors who have come forward and who helped make today possible, Anderson said. We are working with 16 survivors of Stitts who have been suffering in secrecy, silence and shame and all have fought hard to make sure this file was made known to the public to help protect children in the future.
On Thursday afternoon, the Very Rev. Charles Lachowitzer, Vicar General at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, released a statement. It reads:
"Thomas Stitts was one of the former clergy included in our initial disclosure of names of credibly accused priests on December 2, 2013. This John Jay list was posted on our website at the time. Stitts was in ministry when he died in 1985.
"If we receive an allegation of child sexual abuse regarding a priest today, we immediately contact law enforcement.
"We ask for forgiveness from, and pray for hope and healing for, all victims and survivors of sexual abuse, their families and their friends."
Many of the items in the files that were released are letters between Stitts and other members of the archdiocese, and they go back to the 1970s and 1980s.
Stitts died in 1985.
Lawsuits regarding Stitts were filed against the archdiocese in 1993. When the lawsuits became public in 1995, the archdiocese told the press and the public that they had no knowledge Stitts was an abuser until 1993.
The letters contained within the file, though, contradict those statements.
Most Reverend John R. Roach, the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis at the time, received a letter dated Sept. 1, 1980, from a parishioner whose son was allegedly molested by Stitts in 1973 at a different parish, St. Leos in St. Paul. It reads, in part:
We do share the serious concern
that other boys not continue to be victimized in this manner. Our son is now 18 and there is no doubt in our minds that his confusion over his own sexuality may have root in this early experience with sex at the hands of such an important authority figure.
One of those lawsuits from 1993 involved an 11-year-old altar boy at Guardian Angels in Hastings.
The suit claimed the boy was molested in the church rectory and after Mass while he was performing duties as an altar boy.