Trial Set in Case against Diocese

By Mark Stodghill
Duluth News Tribune [Minnesota]
February 11, 2006

A September trial has been set for a former Proctor man who is suing the Diocese of Duluth and St. Rose Catholic Church in Proctor, claiming he was sexually abused by a priest starting more than four decades ago.

The plaintiff claims he was molested by the Rev. John Nicholson at the Proctor church starting in 1965 when he was an 11-year-old altar boy. According to the complaint, Nicholson died in 1988.

The suit claims that the alleged sexual abuse by Nicholson led the plaintiff to develop various coping mechanisms and symptoms of psychological distress, "including great shame, guilt, self-blame, depression, repression and disassociation."

The suit asks for more than $50,000 in damages.

The plaintiff, 52, is known in court documents as "John Doe 65." The former railroad employee lives in Arizona in the winter and Superior in the summer.

In his lawsuit, filed in 2003, the man claims that the alleged sexual abuse by Nicholson included fondling and masturbating the minor.

The Sept. 25 trial date was set during a teleconference Judge John T. Oswald held with the attorneys on Friday.

The plaintiff is represented by St. Paul lawyer Jeff Anderson, one of the most prominent lawyers in the country in handling sexual abuse cases by clergy.

The diocese is represented by Duluth attorney John Kelly.

Anderson said the plaintiff will argue that Nicholson abused the plaintiff while acting in the scope of his employment and that makes the Duluth Diocese legally responsible.

In his court-filed answer to the complaint, Kelly said that Nicholson was not acting within the scope of his duties as a Roman Catholic priest at any time he is alleged to have sexually abused or exploited the man.


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