Suit Charging Priest with Sex Abuse Ok'd
Man Says He Repressed Memories for Years

By Bruce Nolan
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA)
May 11, 2002

A man who claims he only recently recovered repressed memories of sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest almost 30 years ago may be able to press his claims in Louisiana courts, according to an appellate court ruling handed down Thursday.

The decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal is apparently the first of its kind in Louisiana, said Mike Gertler, who represents a man identified as John Doe.

It may not be settled law yet, however; attorneys for the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux are free to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Doe, identified as a paralegal of about age 38 living in Metairie, was a boy growing up in the Houma area when he allegedly was molested several times by the Rev. Gerald Prinz in 1973 and 1978, according to his suit. The incidents took place at St. Gregory Barbarigo Parish in Houma and St. Louis Parish in nearby Bayou Blue, Doe claims. Prinz later ceased working as a priest and was last known to be living in Metairie in the late 1980s, said Jill Trahan, another attorney representing Doe. His name does not appear in an archdiocesan directory of active and retired priests.

In the early 1990s, Doe began experiencing anxiety, depression and occasional sweats, and in 1994 he recovered the suppressed memories that Prinz had abused him, his lawsuit says.

Doe sued Prinz in 1995. Although the abuse allegedly occurred in Houma, the New Orleans archdiocese was named a defendant because the Houma area was part of its jurisdiction when the abuse allegedly occurred.

In pretrial hearings, church attorneys argued it was too late for Doe to press his claim.

But Judge Nadine Ramsey of Civil District Court in New Orleans ruled that psychologist Edward Schwery's methods had met minimum legal tests when he came to the conclusion that at least two of Doe's memories were authentic and had been long repressed.

Ramsey ruled that Schwery's findings could go to a future jury to accept or reject. If they believe the memories were genuinely repressed, the case could stay alive despite the passage of years, Judges Dennis Bagneris and Terri Love ruled.

Chief Judge William H. Byrnes III dissented, saying the majority's decision rested on no Louisiana precedents. Moreover, "I do not believe that it is good public policy," he wrote.

Dwight Paulsen, an attorney representing Prinz and the churches, did not return a phone call seeking comment.


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