2 men sue Catholic Diocese of Dallas over sexual abuse as children at orphanage

Dallas Morning News [Dallas TX]

February 17, 2023

By Isabella Volmert

The lawsuit alleges the men were sexually assaulted by a priest while under the care of the diocese and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word at the Dunne Memorial Home for Boys in the 1960s.

Two Tarrant County men are suing the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and the Houston-based Sisters of Charity of theIncarnate Word over sexual abuse they say they suffered as children in the 1960s at an Oak Cliff orphanage.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Dallas County, alleges the institutions failed to protect children in their care and covered up the abuse. It seeks more than $1 million in damages.

The Dallas diocese recently learned of the lawsuit and is reviewing it, spokeswoman Katy Kiser said.

“The Diocese takes all claims of abuse very seriously, and we continue to offer our prayers to all victims of abuse,” she said in a written statement.

The Sisters of Charity did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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The plaintiffs, identified only by initials in the lawsuit, say they were sexually abused by the Rev. Henry McGill at Dunne Memorial Home for Boys, an orphanage that opened on West Davis Street in 1917. The lawsuit says enrollment at the facility was about 73 boys in 1963.

The lawsuit says the diocese, which owned the home, and the order, which staffed it, were legally responsible for the children.

McGill, who died in 1996 at age 84, is on the list of priests credibly accused of sexual assault published by the diocese in 2019. McGill was assigned to a number of locations across the Dallas-Fort Worth area after joining the diocese in 1954.

According to the lawsuit, one of the men was sexually abused as a boy from 1962 to 1967. The lawsuit alleges a nun with the Sisters of Charity, Sister Mary Bridgette, would tell the boy after he had gone to bed “he had done something wrong” and was going to be “punished.”

Related:Lawsuit says Dallas diocese, Plano church didn’t protect girl from sexual abuse

The lawsuit says Sister Mary Bridgette would lead the boy to a room in the basement, give him a cup of alcohol and instruct him to remove his clothing before leaving him in the dark. McGill then sexually assaulted the boy, the lawsuit says.

The second plaintiff described a similar pattern of abuse, which began when he was 9 and lasted from 1967 to 1971. The lawsuit says the boy was led to the room by the same nun, who gave him alcohol, had him remove his clothing and left him in the dark before McGill sexually assaulted him.

He also was sexually assaulted in McGill’s residence across the street from Dunne Memorial Home, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says the two boys were injured physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually “for the past 50 years and counting.”

Related:Southern Baptists to release secret list of sexual abusers

The suit alleges the diocese and the Sisters of Charity failed protect the children and covered up the abuse in question and other cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by McGill for years. The lawsuit alleges the two institutions conspired with “parties outside the Diocese” to minimize public knowledge and protect priests for decades in relation to the Roman Catholic Church’s worldwide clergy sexual abuse crisis.

In addition to Sister Mary Bridgette, the lawsuit names the home’s supervisor, Mother Ann Catherine, as culpable for the abuse. It was not clear whether the nuns were still alive, and the Sisters of Charity did not immediately respond to inquiries about their status.

Related:Former Jesuit Prep Dallas president protected abusive priest, kept sex assault claims secret

The lawsuit argues that any statute of limitations should not apply because the diocese and Sisters of Charity continuously concealed information about the sexual abuse crisis “in general and specifically as to McGill and Dunne Memorial.” The complaint cited the May 2019 police raid of the Dallas diocese’s offices to obtain files related to sexual abuse by priests as evidence of continual coverup.

The diocese has called the raid “sensational” and “unnecessary.”

Lisa Kendzior, a spokeswoman for the Dallas Fort-Worth chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said in a written statement the group is not surprised by the lawsuit, as McGill is a known “serial sexual abuser.”

“We applaud these brave survivors for coming forward,” she said. “It is incredibly difficult to live with the pain of childhood sexual abuse, but it can be even more difficult to go public. We honor these survivors and their courage.”

Kendzior said the average survivor of child sexual abuse in the U.S. does not come forward until they are 52 years old, making it difficult for older survivors in Texas to make it through court because of the statute of limitations.

On Wednesday, SNAP and other advocacy groups rallied in Austin in support of two bills recently brought to the Texas Legislature. The proposed bills, HB 206 and SB 751, seek to dismiss the statute of limitations related to sexual assault of children and apply the law retroactively.

“We hope that news like this will compel others to learn about the realities of childhood sexual violence, the barriers survivors face in reporting abuse, and the urgent need for SOL reform in Texas,” Kendzior said.