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  Priest Named in Suit Is under Investigation/ Man Says Molestation Happened at Church in Affton in the '70s

By Peter Shinkle
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 4, 2004

A Catholic priest accused in a lawsuit Wednesday of molesting a child three decades ago in Affton is also under criminal investigation, a spokesman for the St. Louis County prosecutor said.

Father Norman Christian is named in a suit filed in St. Louis Circuit Court that seeks unspecified damages from him and the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The plaintiff is identified only as "John Doe TF."

Police had arrested and questioned Christian last year after a complaint was made, said Don Schneider, executive assistant to Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch.

Schneider said his office is seeking additional information before deciding whether to present a case to a grand jury. He would not provide details.

The civil suit alleges that John Doe TF was sexually abused at age 11 by Christian at the St. George Church in Affton in the early 1970s.

The filing of the case was accompanied by a news conference by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, with members holding signs outside the Civil Courts Building downtown.

The archdiocese said Wednesday that it removed Christian from the ministry in 1995 "after an allegation of abuse of a minor over 20 years earlier was brought to the diocese."

Christian, now 68, lives in a "monitored environment," said diocese spokesman Jim Orso. "He's in a place where he's watched. People are keeping an eye on him."

Orso said Christian cannot exercise any form of public ministry.

Christian could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

The suit claims the Archdiocese was aware of Christian's "dangerous propensities" to abuse children, but kept them a secret and continued to put him in positions of authority over children.

Orso declined comment on the allegations.

John Doe TF issued a statement through his lawyer, Ken Chackes, saying he decided to act to protect others. "Perhaps tonight a sick pedophile would worry that the courts are taking this to heart and would be so fearful that he would leave that innocent child alone," it said.

Chackes said his client is a former seminarian, now in his 40s, who is married, has children and works as an electrician.

The plaintiff was alone with Christian at the church rectory when he was molested in either 1972 or '73, Chackes said. The boy told his mother but she accepted the priest's account that nothing improper had happened, so no report was made to police at the time, Chackes said.

David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, said that now, "She believes her son."

The archdiocese said that from 1961 until Christian's removal in 1995, he served at seven churches: St. Peter's in Kirkwood, Ascension in Normandy, Sacred Heart in Festus, St. George in Affton, Nativity in St. Louis, St. Adalbert in St. Louis and St. William in Woodson Terrace.

 
 

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