2 More Claim Abuse by Priest in BR Diocese

By Adrian Angelette
The Advocate [Louisiana]
April 8, 2006

Two more men claim in a lawsuit that former priest Christopher Springer molested them while they were altar boys at a Plaquemine church in the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

In this case, the molestations allegedly occurred from May 1973 until the summer of that year, when Springer worked at St. John the Evangelist Church in Plaquemine, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Baton Rouge.

The lawsuit lists as defendants Springer, the diocese and Bishop Robert Muench. Also listed are Fireman's Fund and GuideOne insurance companies, who insure Muench and the diocese.

The attorney for the two men said she thinks it has been established that Springer preyed on young Catholic boys during the 1970s and 1980s.

"We don't know how many others have not come forward," said Felecia Peavy, the Houston-based attorney who represents the men.

The names of the two former altar boys were not revealed in the lawsuit, but it does say that the families of the men did "thousands of volunteer hours" for the church and contributed "tens of thousands of dollars" in regular tithing.

The lawsuit also provides no details about what Springer is accused of doing to the two men, one of whom lives in West Baton Rouge Parish and the other in Austin, Texas.

The two men are identified in the lawsuit as John Doe VII and John Doe VIII. The men, who are not related, are so named in the lawsuit because Peavy now has represented eight men who claim Springer molested them.

The diocese has settled the lawsuits filed by four of the men, Peavy has said. The others are still pending in court.

"These victims were left alone to deal with the psychological, social and economic consequences of being raped as a child," Peavy said.

Settlement terms of the four cases that have been resolved were not released. Diocese attorney Charles Cusimano has said he would like to disclose the terms but the settlement agreement requires him to keep the deal confidential.

Cusimano on Friday said he has not received a copy of the latest lawsuit, but expects to proceed with this suit as he has with others.

It is the policy of the diocese to investigate all claims of abuse and offer assistance to anyone whose claims are found to have substance, Cusimano said.

Lawsuits filed by all the former altar boys represented by Peavy allege the abuse by Springer occurred between 1968 and 1980.

Cusimano has said Springer has not been a priest in Baton Rouge or elsewhere for more than 20 years. He added that there are fewer than 10 cases of alleged abuse pending against the diocese, all date back to the 1970s and none involve current priests.

In the past, former altar boys have claimed they were abused by Springer while he was working as a Redemptorist or diocesan priest at St. Gerard Majella in Baton Rouge, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Slidell, St. Alphonsus Parish in New Orleans, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Plaquemine, St. Pius X Church in Baton Rouge, St. Mary's of False River Catholic Church, Pointe Coupee Church and Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Clinton.

The newest lawsuit against Springer and the diocese has been assigned to state District Judge Curtis Calloway.


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