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  Molestation Suit Naming Dead Priest Is Dismissed. a State Judge Finds No Support for the Claim of Negligence at St. Stephen's in 1961

By Debra Barayuga
Honolulu Star Bulletin
March 25, 2005

Alexander Winchester says he still has faith in God, after a state judge dismissed his lawsuit against the Catholic Church alleging he had been molested by a parish priest at age 11.

But believing those in the pulpit purportedly preaching the word of God is another matter, Winchester said.

"It's just gonna be a new day for me, and I will try take it one day at a time," he said.

In August 2002, Winchester sued the Catholic Church and the estate of Alphonsus Boumeister, a former pastor and parish priest at St. Stephen's Catholic Church in Nuuanu. He claimed he had been fondled or sexually assaulted on at least six occasions in 1961, when he was 11 years old.

Circuit Judge Victoria Marks ruled yesterday there was no evidence to support Winchester's claims.

"This is not a situation where the plaintiffs have come forward with evidence showing this priest was shuffled from one parish to another because the church or the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts knew he was a problem," she said. "Here, we have absolutely no information anyone knew this priest had a risk for inappropriately touching children."

Winchester said after the hearing, "You don't speak against a Catholic priest in a well-known Catholic church in Nuuanu who was loved by a lot of people."

Winchester had maintained in his suit that the Catholic Church and the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts order were negligent in hiring and supervising Boumeister.

John Reyes-Burke, attorney for the Catholic diocese, said there was no indication other than what is alleged in the lawsuit that anything happened, and that the plaintiff was unable to provide evidence to support his claims.

Plaintiff attorney Philip Brown said he respected the court's ruling but was disappointed. There was no question in his mind that the molestation occurred, and the issue was whether there were any legal defenses, he said.

Winchester, now 53, said the molestation left him grappling with many psychological issues about himself and caused problems within his devout Catholic family.

He was raised in a family where children should be seen and not heard. As a child he looked up to policemen, judges and priests and was taught not to question authority. So coming forward about what happened was difficult for him.

Brown said the Catholic Church and the Fathers of Sacred Hearts have taken no responsibility for Boumeister and should have produced Boumeister's employment records.

Paul Schraff, attorney for the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts, denied concealing information from the plaintiffs.

The alleged incidents happened 40 years ago, and Boumeister has been dead for decades, so no information could be obtained from him, Schraff said.

A full inquiry was conducted into anyone who knew Boumeister, and found "absolutely no evidence" that he had been previously disciplined or counseled or that the incidents alleged by Winchester ever happened, Schraff said.

Winchester said he did not go public with his allegations to sensationalize the scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church during the past few years. He said he had repressed memories of the molestation, only to have them resurface after hearing reports of sexual misconduct by Catholic priests.

Since he came forward, he has experienced an outpouring of support from people of the same faith and outside, he said. They tell him, "Don't blame the religion."

Winchester denies he is after the Catholic Church or its faithful. "We're talking about one individual," he said.

Contact: dbarayuga@starbulletin.com

 
 

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