Jury Rejects Sex Abuse Suit against Capuchin Priests

By Jim Schaefer
Detroit Free Press
March 29, 1995

The videotaped interviews showed two Capuchin priests making horrific admissions: During the 1970s, they had sexually abused several teenage boys who were students.

They were boys who had looked to the priests for understanding, direction, compassion.

Paul Isely claimed he was one of their victims. Whether he was remained undecided Tuesday after a federal court jury in Detroit ruled that he complained about it too late. The U.S. District Court jury ruled his lawsuit was baseless because he did not file it before the statute of limitations expired. Jurors would not comment after the verdict.

Isely, now 34 and living in Cambridge, Mass., had asked for more than $2 million. He will get no money from the Detroit- based order, best-known for its soup kitchen on on Detroit's east side.

The verdict before Judge Gerald Rosen ended a nearly two- month trial featuring testimony that was legally complicated and emotionally painful. Several victims took the stand.

Isely testified tearfully that three priests abused him on several different occasions during the 1970s. In video depositions, two admitted abusing some boys, but not Isely.

Isely said the abuse was so awful that he repressed the memories.

Emotional as the testimony was, his case hinged on a stark legal question: If he truly repressed the memories, when did he recall them? A provision in law says a civil lawsuit over sexual abuse is valid if filed within a year of the memory returning. Isely said his recollection returned in late 1992; he filed suit in October 1993. The jury didn't believe him.

Defense attorneys argued that Isely, an intellectual, educated man with expertise in psychological counseling, concocted the repressed memories after the Capuchins refused a settlement demand from him in 1989.

Isely's suit was the first to go to trial of several suits filed against the order. It was unclear Tuesday what effect his failure might have on the other cases, which are in Wisconsin.

The Rev. Anthony Scannel, who today heads the Capuchin order, said: "As a Capuchin, I think our next step is to try to institute a reconciliation with the plaintiff. . . . As pastors, we've got to try to heal all this."

None of the priests -- Jim Buser, Gale Leifeld and Jim Wolf -- has been prosecuted.


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