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  Men Claiming Sex Abuse by Priest Sue Archdiocese, 2 Area Churches
Alleged Molester Died 10 Years Ago

By Wayne Wangstad
Saint Paul Pioneer Press
January 24, 1995

Two more men are suing the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and two of its churches for alleged sexual abuse by a priest when they were youngsters.

What sets these two lawsuits apart from numerous others filed against the archdiocese is that the alleged abuser, the Rev. Thomas Stitts, has been dead for almost 10 years.

The lawsuits were served on the archdiocese on Jan. 21, 1993, but did not become public until Monday, when they were filed in Ramsey County District Court.

In addition to the archdiocese, the defendants are St. Leo's Catholic Church in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Hastings, formerly known as Guardian Angels Catholic Church, where Stitts was employed at various times as a priest.

A native of Washington, D.C., Stitts was pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in New Brighton when he died of cancer on Oct. 13, 1985, at age 50.

Ordained on March 3, 1962, Stitts became assistant pastor at Guardian Angels in June 1966 and worked there until June 1970, when he became assistant pastor at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in St. Paul.

He was assistant pastor at St. Leo's from September 1970 through October 1973, when he became pastor at St. George Catholic Church in Long Lake, where he worked until joining the New Brighton church, according to the lawsuit.

It alleges that Stitts started molesting one of the plaintiffs when he was 11 years old and a parishioner at Guardian Angels. The abuse allegedly started in 1967, continued through 1970. The suit claims the boy was molested in the church rectory and after Mass while he was performing altar boy duties.

The other plaintiff also was about 11 years old when Stitts allegedly started abusing him at St. Leo's in 1973, according to the lawsuit. The abuse allegedly occurred in the church rectory and St. Paul Seminary, also while the boy was performing altar boy duties.

Both men contend the abuse caused them psychological and emotional injuries that have interfered with their lives and employment, and have resulted in medical and psychological treatment.

"It was only in the last 2 1/2 years that they realized that their injuries were the result of sexual abuse," said St. Paul attorney Jeffrey Anderson. Anderson has filed more than 30 similar lawsuits against the archdiocese. Nearly all of them have been resolved through out-of-court settlements.

Joan Bernet, archdiocese spokeswoman, said the archdiocese had no knowledge of the alleged incidents before 1993. Neither man had complained of sexual abuse before that time, she said.

 
 

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