4 Men Sue Catholic Order, Alleging 1970s Abuse by Priest
By Amy Forliti
November 20, 2014
A lawsuit filed Thursday by four men who say they were molested by a priest in the 1970s claims a Catholic order created a public nuisance when it failed to warn families that the priest could pose a risk.
It was one of two lawsuits filed Thursday in Minnesota against the Crosier Fathers and Brothers and the retired Rev. Gerald Funcheon, who worked in suburban Minneapolis, among other places, and has admitted to abusing minors. The lawsuit alleges the Crosiers are putting the public in danger by concealing the histories of accused priests, and it seeks the full disclosure of accused priests' files.
A similar public-nuisance claim against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has led to the unprecedented disclosure of tens of thousands of church documents and the names of dozens of accused priests. That lawsuit recently was settled in an agreement that outlines protocols to keep children safe.
Mike Finnegan, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the Crosiers have shown some willingness to disclose information on their own and as part of a settlement in 2009. The hope, he said, is that they will decide to release the files voluntarily.
In a statement Thursday, the Crosiers said they take the claims seriously.
"The Crosiers do not tolerate any forms of sexual misconduct, and we are profoundly sorry for actions committed by Gerald Funcheon while he was a member of our Order," said the Rev.
Thomas Enneking, prior provincial of the Crosier Fathers and Brothers.
Funcheon's attorney didn't return a message seeking comment.
Finnegan said Funcheon served in eight states: Minnesota, Nebraska, Indiana, Florida, Hawaii, California, Missouri and Texas; and had more than a dozen assignments. Funcheon was never charged but has been the subject of prior lawsuits, and his ministry was restricted in 1993.
Finnegan said Funcheon admitted in 1992 that he might have as many as 50 victims. During a sworn deposition on Sept. 18, 2012, which Finnegan's law firm edited and posted on YouTube, Funcheon admitted to having far fewer.
At first, he estimated he abused a dozen kids, and when pressed, he said: "I couldn't count them up. I don't know -- I'll go to 18."
In the latest lawsuit, the four men claim they were 11 to 14 years old when they were molested by Funcheon at St. Odilia Catholic Church and School in Shoreview between 1970 and 1974. The claim alleges the Crosiers should have known Funcheon molested at least one child at a camp in Syracuse, Ind., in 1965.
It also says the religious order failed to tell law enforcement, allowing Funcheon to avoid prosecution and continue abusing kids.
In the other lawsuit filed Thursday, one man alleges Funcheon abused him in 1985, when he was a student at Palma High school in Salinas, Calif. That lawsuit alleges the Crosiers knew Funcheon was a danger and repeatedly moved him from place to place because of complaints.