|Diocese Settles Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
The $60,000 Settlement Is Among the First by the Diocese in Cases Involving Local Priests.
By Joe Lambe
Kansas City Star
April 11, 2007
A Northland man has settled a lawsuit with the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and two former priests for alleged sexual abuse in 1967.
The man, now in his 50s, contends that two priests molested him when he was 14 years old and that the diocese covered up sexual behavior by the priests for years.
The $60,000 settlement reached earlier this year after mediation with the Platte County man is among the first by the diocese in a local priest sex case.
The former priests, Thomas Reardon and Thomas O'Brien, are also named in several other pending sex abuse lawsuits for alleged acts decades ago. In all, about six former or active priests in the Kansas City area have been sued by more than two dozen plaintiffs in the last few years.
An attorney for O'Brien on Tuesday said his client denied any sex acts with children. Neither Reardon nor his attorney could be reached for comment, but Reardon also has denied any such acts.
Kay Goodnow, a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said at a Tuesday news conference that she hoped the settlement signaled change for a diocese that had constantly fought such cases in court.
Rebecca Summers, a diocese spokeswoman, said, "We're not in mediation on any of the other suits, but there is always a possibility."
She urged any victims of clergy abuse to come forward to the diocese, authorities or both.
Goodnow urged any victims or witnesses to contact police. She praised the Platte County man for the courage to file his lawsuit.
"I think all Roman Catholics have been abused by the secrecy and conspiracy on these subjects," she said.
Samuel Wendt, the man's attorney, said his client suppressed the abuse but memories of it started coming back three years ago.
"He felt like that time was just a black hole," Wendt said. "He didn't remember things around that particular time."
The stress of realizing what happened broke up his marriage and caused emotional problems, Wendt said.
The man's lawsuit contends that Reardon sodomized him in the St. Elizabeth rectory and that both priests later took him and other boys to a lake retreat, got them drunk and molested them.
Reardon resigned in 1989. O'Brien retired in 2002 and has been told he can no longer work as a priest, Summers said.
Monsignor Robert Murphy, vicar general of the diocese, issued a statement that said in part: "A written apology rings hollow. I would welcome an opportunity, now this has left the legal arena, to talk heart-to-heart with this man."
He, too, urged anyone who has seen or suffered sexual abuse by anyone in the church to "come forward so that we can begin the healing process."
The diocese also has paid $10,000 to each of two victims who sued in other states for acts not committed in Kansas City.
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