After Wisconsin Supreme Court Ruling, Woman Sues Church for Fraud

Associated Press, carried in Winona Daily News
July 20, 2007

Milwaukee — After a state Supreme Court ruling cleared the way, a woman who alleges a priest molested her as a girl filed suit Thursday accusing the Milwaukee Roman Catholic Archdiocese and the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D., of fraud for covering up the man's history of sexual abuse.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court held in a decision only last week that the church could be sued for fraud in such cases.

The lawsuit filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court details the alleged fraudulent coverups when the priest abused girls while being moved among parishes in his South Dakota diocese, in the Milwaukee archdiocese and back in South Dakota in the 1960s and 1970s.

The priest, Bruce MacArthur, later was sent to Texas and served prison time there after being convicted of trying to rape a woman in a nursing home.

Now retired, the 85-year-old MacArthur was charged in Dodge County Circuit Court in January 2006 with sexually assaulting several girls during the mid-1960s while serving as a chaplain at the former St. Joseph Hospital in Beaver Dam. His attorney raised statute-of-limitations issues in an appeal that is pending.

MacArthur's history also was part of a lawsuit filed by a different woman, Judy DeLonga, in South Dakota in 2003. She reached a settlement with the dioceses in 2005.

DeLonga said MacArthur was a chaplain at the Beaver Dam hospital and she was 10 when he began a seven-year pattern of sexual intercourse with her.

In the new lawsuit, the plaintiff, who is not identified, contends the priest was able to abuse her and other girls because he was placed in parishes and hospitals without informing parishioners and parents of his history.

Kathleen Hohl, a spokeswoman for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, said she hadn't seen the lawsuit and couldn't comment.

According to the lawsuit:

— Before he was sent to Milwaukee in 1965, MacArthur had been accused of molestation by the parents of at least four girls in two parishes in South Dakota, and he underwent two weeks of treatment at a New Mexico center and also spent time at a retreat house.

— Then-Auxiliary Bishop Roman R. Atkielski of Milwaukee, who consented to his transfer to Milwaukee, acknowledged in a letter to the Sioux Falls bishop that he knew of the priest's "problem."

— Before being returned to Sioux Falls in 1970, MacArthur had served at St. Therese, St. Phillip Neri and St. Rose parishes in Milwaukee, and in taped statements for DeLonga's lawsuit he acknowledged abusing one girl each at St. Therese and St. Rose.

MacArthur, who now lives in a residence outside St. Louis for abusive priests, described himself on the videotape as a "rotten priest" with "no way of stopping his abuse."

The state Supreme Court case decided last week involved four men who claim they were sexually abused by two priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese when they were boys in the 1970s and 1980s.

The court ordered additional proceedings into whether they can sue the archdiocese for fraud but upheld the dismissal of their negligence claims. The court said those claims must be filed within three years of the date of the last sexual assault, while the fraud claims must be filed within six years of the discovery of the fraud.


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