Priest Is Sued for Alleged Abuse

Capital Times
November 2, 1993

A former La Crosse priest is being sued by a man who claims the clergyman sexually abused him more than 25 years ago.

Rev. Thomas Dempsey, listed as now of Boston, Mass., was named in the civil suit filed Monday in La Crosse County Circuit Court. It also names Holy Trinity Catholic parish, the Roman Catholic Diocese of La Crosse and their insurers as defendants.

The 39-year-old plaintiff, listed on the suit as "John Doe," claims that, when he was 13 years old and a student at Holy Trinity in 1967 or 1968, Dempsey befriended him and then initiated sexual contact.

The contact included touching of genitals and simulated intercourse, the complaint said.

The plaintiff contends that the abuse caused him to "develop various coping mechanisms and symptoms of psychological distress, including great shame, embarrassment, guilt, self-blame, denial, depression and disassociation from his experiences," the complaint said.

It further said that the plaintiff realized the connection between the alleged abuse and continuing psychological and emotional problems during the last two years.

The suit claims the parish and diocese were both negligent because Dempsey was employed by them at the time and was directly under their supervision.

The diocese's lawyer, James Birnbaum of La Crosse, said that he has not seen the complaint. But he said the diocese responded "vigorously to any suggestion of impropriety," making it likely that if the incidents described in the suit had occurred and been reported, some action would have been taken to correct the situation.

"We have no reason to believe this case has any merit," he said.


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