Insurance Company Absolves Itself of Damages in Church Sex Cases

By Robert Boczkiewicz
Pueblo Chieftain
October 5, 2006

Denver - An insurance company is contending it has no obligation to provide coverage to the Pueblo Catholic Diocese and the Marianists religious order for lawsuits filed by men who allege they were sexually abused.

The North River Insurance Co. of Morris Township, N.J., makes the contention in a new 26-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.

The suit names as defendants the diocese, the Marianists Province of the United States and 22 men who have sued the diocese and the Marianists, a Catholic order which staffed Roncalli High School in Pueblo. The school closed in 1971.

Twenty-one men alleged they were sexually abused years ago by Brother William Mueller, a Roncalli teacher. One man alleged he was molested at St. Pius X Catholic Church by former priest Andrew Burke.

The insurance company wants a judge to declare it "is not obligated to provide a defense or insurance coverage."

North River said in the new lawsuit that the diocese notified the company about the men's lawsuits and requested coverage under two policies "the diocese claimed" the company had issued covering from 1968 to 1974.

North River said that it replied that it had been unable to find the purported policies.

In its lawsuit, North River cited several reason why it contends it is not obligated.

Among the reasons, the company asserts the diocese "has failed to provide material terms" of the policies "allegedly issued by the company."

Another reason cited is that the Marianists are not insured by the alleged policies.

An alternative reason cited is that the diocese purportedly "knew of Mueller's and Father Burke's propensity to sexually abuse minors" before the men suing were abused, a factor that supposedly would nullify coverage.

In the past, the diocese and Marianists have denied they were aware of sexual misconduct allegations before the first lawsuit last year.

A diocesan official, Theresa Farley, said Wednesday the diocese could not comment until it reviews the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for the Marianists said the order has not asked North River to provide coverage as a result of the men's lawsuits and has coverage through another company.


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