Lawyer Sues Former Priest Over Sexual Abuse

Associated Press
March 31, 2003

A retired Roman Catholic priest was sued Monday by an Oklahoma City attorney who alleges the priest sexually abused him when he was a teenager 20 years ago.

The Rev. David Imming and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City are named in the lawsuit filed by attorney Philip Schovanec, who alleges Imming gave him alcohol and engaged in "harmful, offensive and inappropriate conduct and sexual contact."

Imming, who was assigned to churches in Enid and Alva, was forced to retire following another sexual abuse complaint filed by a different young male parishioner involving the same period of time that Imming allegedly abused Schovanec, the lawsuit says.

The Archdiocese has denied that Imming "had ever been involved in any misconduct or that any complaint had ever been made regarding Imming," the lawsuit states. The church has said Imming retired last year to be closer to his ailing mother in Kansas.

The lawsuit accuses the church, Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran and retired Archbishop Charles Salatka of withholding information about Imming's conduct and accuses them of conspiring to conceal information from law enforcement authorities and other parishioners.

A sex abuse policy adopted by Roman Catholic bishops last year requires the church to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by priests and be more accountable to parishioners.

"Unfortunately, it appears this spirit of so-called openness and accountability on the part of the Catholic Church is nothing but a sham. Pure smoke and mirrors," said Schovanec's attorney, H. Blanton Brown of Oklahoma City.

The lawsuit asks the church to reveal the names of all living priests who have served in Oklahoma who have been accused of sexual abuse.

The lawsuit was filed in Oklahoma County District Court and seeks damages in excess of $10,000.

The church's spokesman, the Rev. Edward Weisenburger, issued a statement saying he spoke with Imming by telephone Monday and Imming said "he is completely innocent" of Schovanec's allegations. Weisenburger also said Beltran had offered pastoral care to Schovanec.

Imming, who lives in St. Mary's, Kan., did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

The abuse occurred between 1982 and 1984 when Schovanec was between the ages of 13 and 15, according to the lawsuit. Schovanec and his family attended St. Gregory's the Great Roman Catholic Church in Enid at the time.

The lawsuit states that the abuse occurred in several places including Imming's church parsonage and at his parents' home in Duncan.

Schovanec began to suffer seizures in 1983 and still takes an anti-seizure medication to prevent them.

The combination of medication and alcohol that Imming provided contributed to the former priest's ability to coerce Schovanec "to engage in various sexual acts," the lawsuit says.

Schovanec says he did not recall the abuse until last year, when he discussed specifics with the Archdiocese. Schovanec also asked to review Imming's file and review similar complaints.

The Archdiocese rejected the requests and has concealed Imming's sexual conduct from prosecutors and the public, the lawsuit alleges.

It says Schovanec has experienced a variety of psychological and emotional problems "including great shame, guilt, self-blame, repression and disassociation."


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