Priest Molested Boy, Suit Claims

By Joe Lambe
Kansas City Star [Kansas City MO]
April 5, 2006

A man has sued a Kansas City area priest and the Catholic church in part for alleged molestation more than a decade ago.

The lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court alleges the Rev. Stephen J. Muth molested the John Doe plaintiff in Wichita in 1992, when the plaintiff, then 12, was in an altar boy training program.

Muth, who is pastor at the St. Luke's Byzantine Catholic Church and administrator at St. Cyril Catholic Church, both in Sugar Creek, could not be reached for comment.

A review board for the church found no merit in the allegations, a spokeswoman said.

Also according to the lawsuit:

In 2002, Muth re-established contact with the alleged victim and persuaded him to work for Muth as a groundskeeper at two Kansas City area churches. Muth then made advances that the man rejected. In 2004 the man reported the advances and the 1992 molestation to church officials. He also reported that Muth was involved with another boy.

Church officials took no action and last year fired the man, according to the lawsuit, which also alleges he was wrongfully discharged.

His attorney, Rebecca Randles, said the lawsuit is unusual because it goes beyond sexual allegations to include issues over his employment.

"My client is also concerned that (Muth) still has pastoral duties," she said.

Defendants in the lawsuit also include the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Byzantine Catholic Diocese of Parma, an affiliated Ohio operation. The lawsuit also contends that unspecified church officials knew of Muth's sexual propensities even prior to the 1992 molestation but did nothing.

Rebecca Summers, a spokeswoman for the Kansas City diocese, said the 2004 allegations against Muth had been investigated and found without merit.

According to a statement Summers issued Tuesday:

Two years ago, a man alleged sexual abuse in 1992 and alleged Muth had an inappropriate relationship with a minor in 2004. Muth was placed on administrative leave in 2004 and the diocese reported the allegations to the Missouri Division of Family Services

The state could not investigate the alleged 1992 incident in Kansas but found nothing to substantiate the 2004 relationship.

A diocesan review board found no basis for the 1992 or 2004 accusations against Muth and granted him permission to return to ministry.

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