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  Woman Settles Sex-Abuse Lawsuit against Archdiocese
She Said a Priest Abused Her As a Child and Will Receive Money and an Apology from the Vicar General Who Did Not Believe Her Allegations

By Bob von Sternberg
Star Tribune
October 6, 2005

A 33-year-old woman who says she was sexually abused as a child by a White Bear Lake priest has settled a lawsuit she filed three years ago against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

"The only thing I ever wanted was to be taken seriously, to be believed," Anne Bonse said Wednesday. "Child molesters don't belong in the church, certainly."

Bonse, who now lives in Glenwood City, Wis., spoke during a news conference called by her attorney on the steps of the archdiocesan chancery in St. Paul.

Under terms of the settlement, Bonse will receive an undisclosed sum of money. "There will be no talking about money because if she does that's all that's going to be talked about," attorney Jeff Anderson said.

In addition, she is to receive a written apology from the Rev. Kevin McDonough, the archdiocese's vicar general, who she said did not initially believe her allegations.

Also, archdiocese officials have agreed to incorporate material developed by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in training staff members and volunteers.

Archdiocese spokesman Dennis McGrath said a settlement was reached after "the plaintiff lowered her demands to where our insurance and the archdiocese said it made more sense to settle than to litigate."

The archdiocese already operates what is called a "Safe Environment" program, in which all clergy, employees and volunteers undergo risk management training for dealing with children, he said.

Bonse says she was abused a number of times between the ages of 5 and 10 by Gilbert Gustafson, then her priest at St. Mary of the Lake Church in White Bear Lake.

Gustafson pleaded guilty to assaulting a boy in the 1970s and spent six months in jail. He has since left priestly practice, in accordance with a policy approved by U.S. bishops.

He was not removed because of Bonse's allegations, McGrath said.

She reported her allegations to McDonough in 2000.

"He took a pedophile's word over my own," she said. "I told him all these horrific memories that were humiliating."

Bonse's mother, Jan Fredericks, said she was trying to "appeal to all good Catholics, as my husband and I are, to believe Anne's story. ... I feel terribly betrayed, and this has been a betrayal of the really good men who are priests."

Bonse's attorney, Anderson, who has pursued clergy abuse suits nationwide since the priest pedophilia scandal broke several years ago, said he hoped the settlement of Bonse's suit will "teach this archdiocese this is no way to treat victims when they come for help and protection."

He said his client "felt turned away, ignored and disbelieved."

McGrath said the archdiocese has settled about 50 sexual abuse cases over the years and currently has two pending.

 
 

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