Jackson Boy

United Press International
March 4, 1987

A Jackson boy who claims he was sexually molested has filed an $8 million damage suit against a parish priest, Catholic officials and the Vatican.

In the lawsuit, Frankie Lee Spann accuses the Rev. Vance Zebulon Thorn, former pastor of Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Jackson, of committing one or more acts of " sexual abuse over a long period of time" while Spann was a 9-year-old student at Holy Ghost School.

Ervin C. Spann and Juanita Spann filed the lawsuit Friday in Hinds County Court on behalf of their son and his brother, Marcus Irving Spann.

According to the Jackson Daily News, the suit says Frankie Spann was caused to "sexually act out a similar scenario" on his brother, also a minor, as a result of his molestation at school.

Jackson Police arrested Thorn on March 21, 1986 on a charge of sexual battery, based on allegations by Frankie Spann. Thorn served as pastor from August 1980 until his arrest.

Thorn was not directly involved with the Holy Ghost School, said diocese officials.

The Hinds County grand jury handed down an indictment of sexual battery against Thorn on June 10, 1986. A second charge of gratifying lust, filed by police April 4 on allegations by another school boy, was dropped.

Thorn is scheduled for trial March 9 in Hinds Circuit Court on the sexual battery charge. No date has been set for the civil suit.

The lawsuit accuses church officials of negligence in hiring Thorn and allowing him to continue as a priest "when they knew or should have known of his propensity to commit the sexual acts complained of."

Other defendants named in the suit are are Bishop William R. Houck of the diocese of Jackson, the diocese itself, the congregation of Holy Ghost Parish, Holy Ghost School, school officials, the Society of the Divine Word Southern Provence and Divine Word Missionaries, the dioceses of Biloxi and Mobile, Ala. and the U.S. Catholic Conference.

Thorn declined to comment.

A spokesman for the Jackson diocese, Vicar General Rev. Francis J. Cosgrove, said Thorn is on administrative leave until the charges are resolved.

"He is inactive in the church at this moment," said Cosgrove.

Thorn's superior, the Most Rev. Borgia Aubespin of Bay St. Louis, said Thorn is still a member of the Divine Word Missionaries but is not allowed to perform any church functions.

"The charges are made but I don't believe the incident he is accused of really happened," he said.


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