Judge allows broad abuse claim to move forward in St. Cloud Diocese

Star Tribune

By Jean Hopfensperger Star Tribune JUNE 30, 2015

A Stearns County judge has ruled that a public nuisance claim against the Diocese of St. Cloud by an alleged victim of priest sex abuse may proceed, a move that could pry open the Catholic diocese’s clergy abuse files on the priest sued and all others.

The order, filed Tuesday by Judge Kris Davick-Halfen, is similar to a 2013 decision in Ramsey County which resulted in an unprecedented release of names and documents of clergy sex offenders from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The St. Cloud diocese lawsuit was filed by a man who says he was sexually abused in the early 1970s by Rev. James Thoennes in the city of Foley. It says the diocese was aware that Thoennes had abused at least one other child previously.

The diocese created a “public nuisance” by allowing Thoennes to remain in public ministry and by not informing the public about his past, the lawsuit claims.

“This ruling will allow us to bring this serious, ongoing problem in the Diocese of St. Cloud out into the light so that we can protect children in the future from going through the same harm that Doe 50 and many other kids like him had to endure …” said Jeff Anderson, the attorney for the alleged victim.

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