Women Sue New Ulm Catholic Diocese for Decades-Old Abuse

Associated Press State & Local Wire
September 17, 2003

Two women filed lawsuits in Brown County seeking damages from the New Ulm Catholic Diocese for allegedly being abused almost 40 years ago by a now-deceased priest.

The lawsuits, filed Monday, accuse David A. Roney of using the trust of the women as juveniles to engage them in sexual contact while he was their pastor. They accuse the diocese of failing to take any action about the situation.

According to court papers, the two women, who were not identified, have suffered continued psychological problems that prevent them from leading regular lives.

Andrew Eisenzimmer, a St. Paul attorney representing the diocese, said the diocese wasn't culpable.

"Without sufficient evidence to admit or deny, we're taking the position that the diocese is not legally responsible or liable or negligent," he said.

Attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who represents the women, said, "We're making this public because the diocese and the bishops have kept it secret. Now is the time for prevention and healing. The survivors can't begin to heal until that time comes. The bishops and the diocese should consider this an invitation to healing and reconciliation."

Anderson said the women waited until now to sue because they had been deceived into believing the abuse was OK. Both women, he said, "used coping mechanisms to keep them from realizing that in fact they had been injured."

The Diocese of New Ulm serves 82 parishes and 70,039 Catholics in 15 counties in southwestern Minnesota.

These aren't the first complaints against Roney. Allegations of sexual misconduct against him surfaced in 1987, and the diocese ordered him to undergo a psychological evaluation.

Following a review in 2002, Roney's pastoral duties were eliminated and he was put on administrative leave. He died Jan. 27, 2003, at the age of 83.


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