Woman Seeks Sex-Abuse Settlement with Archdiocese
She Claims There Was No Response When She Made Her Allegations Two Years Ago
By Pam Louwagie
October 18, 2002
The lawsuit is detailed on paper and ready to go, but lawyers for a woman who claims that a priest sexually abused her as a child are asking the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to negotiate a broad settlement before they file the suit.
Sent to the chancery Thursday morning, the suit claims that archdiocese leaders were unresponsive 2 1/2 years ago when Anne Bonse of Glenwood City, Wis., went to the archdiocese after seeing something on television that sparked her memory of abuse. She said the Rev. Gilbert Gustafson abused her from 1977 to 1982, when she was 5 to 10 years old, at her Catholic school in White Bear Lake, in her family's home and while on vacation.
Bonse, now 30, said in a news conference that she felt "revictimized" by how archdiocese leaders reacted when she told them of the abuse that occurred at St. Mary of the Lake parish.
"I received no help and I received no validation of what happened to me," she said.
The archdiocese said that even though her claims were vague and inconsistent with Gustafson's pattern of offense _ he sexually assaulted a boy in the 1970s _ it tried to help Bonse, as it does all those who claim abuse.
Chancellor William Fallon said notes from a February 2000 meeting with Bonse indicate the archdiocese offered therapy and assistance from a victims' advocate. The archdiocese said in a prepared statement Thursday that leaders invited her to continue talking with them, but that they were reluctant to contact her without some indication that she wanted to talk.
Gustafson pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a boy in the 1970s and spent six months in jail. He worked as an administrative aide and regularly celebrated mass for a community of cloistered nuns this spring. He left the priestly practice in accordance with a policy approved by U.S. bishops in June.
St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who announced the suit Thursday, said he and Bonse hope to negotiate a settlement like one announced this month with St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn. That settlement, hailed as groundbreaking, contained not only financial provisions, but also ones to send new allegations of sex abuse to an outside lay review board.
Anderson said he's giving the archdiocese until Nov. 1 to respond. If he doesn't hear back, he said, he will file the suit in Ramsey County District Court.
Fallon said Archbishop Harry Flynn was in Rome.
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