Deception in Conception. Murder and Misconduct at a Benedictine Abbey
By Judy L. Thomas
Kansas City Star
September 1, 2011
|Fr. Isaac True|
KC man's lawsuit accuses local priest and monk of abusing him when he was a boy
A Kansas City area man on Thursday filed a lawsuit accusing a local priest and a monk of sexually abusing him on multiple occasions when he was a boy.
The lawsuit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court by Jon David Couzens Jr., alleges that Monsignor Thomas J. O'Brien, a retired priest in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and the Rev. Isaac True of Conception Abbey in northwest Missouri molested him beginning when he was 9 years old. The lawsuit also names the diocese and Conception Abbey as defendants.
Couzens, 41, alleges in the lawsuit that True, a relative, molested him for several months in the late 1970s, and shortly after that O'Brien sexually abused him and three other youths when they were serving as altar boys at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Independence. One of those boys later committed suicide, Couzens said.
"We have all of these little boys who are burying the sins of these priests in their own guilt and shame," said Couzens, surrounded by two dozen family members and friends at a news conference outside the diocesan headquarters. "It's time to stop."
Couzens said the abuse continued until he graduated from 8th grade. He said he didn't talk about the abuse until this summer, when a friend revealed that her daughter had attended St. Patrick's School in the Northland and was a possible victim of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who is facing state and federal child pornography charges.
Abbot Gregory Polan, the head of Conception Abbey, told The Star that he hadn't seen the lawsuit yet and couldn't discuss it.
O'Brien couldn't be reached.
The diocese said in a statement that True was not assigned to pastoral ministry at Nativity Parish but celebrated Mass there on a few occasions. In 2007, the diocese said, True was appointed for the first time to parish ministry in the diocese and now serves as pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Bethany, Mo.
The diocese said O'Brien retired from parish ministry in 1984 and served as a part-time hospital chaplain until 2002. "He was permanently restricted from any form of public ministry or from representing himself as a Catholic priest in 2002," the diocese said.
O'Brien has been named in numerous sexual abuse lawsuits in recent years. True was the president-rector of Conception Seminary from 1973 to 1988 and was honored last year for serving 50 years of religious life.