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  Lawsuit Accuses Priest of Sex Abuse/ Woman Also Alleges Cover-Up

By Trisha L. Howard
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
January 28, 2004

A Catholic priest who served at churches in Madison County in the 1960s and 1970s sexually abused a young girl for more than a decade, even fathering her son, according to a suit filed Tuesday in Madison County Circuit Court against the dioceses of Springfield, Ill., and Belleville.

The suit filed by Virginia Galloway, now 46 and living in Georgia, alleges that church officials did nothing to stop the abuse by the Rev. Richard Niebrugge. Galloway says the abuse started in 1967 when she was 10 and continued into her adulthood.

The suit also names as defendants two other priests, Msgr. Theodore Baumann and the Rev. Herman Niebrugge, Richard Niebrugge's brother, who Galloway says knew about the abuse but covered it up. Galloway is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.

Kathie Sass, spokeswoman for the diocese of Springfield, which includes Madison County, said she was aware of the suit but didn't know the specific allegations against Richard Niebrugge, who died in May 1983. Herman Niebrugge is still a priest in the Springfield diocese, Sass said.

"Sexual abuse of a child is a sin and a crime," Sass said. "Anybody who has been hurt by sexual abuse as a minor should get the help they deserve. We need to take steps to ensure that our children are safe in our Catholic schools and institutions."

A spokesman for the diocese of Belleville, which is named in the suit as Baumann's employer, could not be reached for comment.

Galloway's lawyer, Rex Carr, said his client discovered only last year that her psychiatric problems - including multiple personality disorder - stemmed from the abuse by Richard Niebrugge.

Illinois law was revised last year to extend the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases. The new law allows people who believe they were abused as children to file suit for up to a decade after turning 18 or up to five years after discovering that they had been injured by childhood sexual abuse.

Galloway "has always tried to deny to herself that this priest did to her what he did, and that it caused her multiple personalities to develop," Carr said.

Carr said Galloway was taken from an abusive home at an early age and spent time in different foster homes and facilities. But after Galloway met Niebrugge in 1967, "he took her under his wing, until finally she was just living with him from rectory to rectory," Carr said.

Niebrugge's obituary lists churches in Springfield and Decatur, as well as the churches of St. Mary's and Sts. Peter and Paul in Alton; St. Boniface in Edwardsville; Sts. Peter and Paul in Collinsville; and St. Paul's in Highland.

In 1977, Carr said, Galloway conceived a child by Niebrugge. She married the next year, and her new husband took the son as his own, Carr said. Carr plans to use DNA testing to prove that the child was fathered by Niebrugge.

 
 

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