Suit: Church Knew of Priest's Alleged Molestation


December 3, 2008

CROWN POINT, Ind. (STNG) ? A lawsuit filed in Lake County, Ind. claims the Catholic Church did nothing to discipline or report to law enforcement a priest who had been accused of child molestation, other than to transfer him to different parishes.

According to a release from attorney Marc Pearlman, the suit claims that in 2003-04 the Rev. Richard A. Emerson repeatedly abused a then-11-year-old boy at St. Thomas More parish in Munster, Ind. The boy is now 16.

The boy's attorneys state the suit includes a copy of a letter from Gary (Ind.) Bishop Dale Melczek to Pope Benedict outlining why Emerson should be defrocked. The letter shows that the church knew of Emerson's alleged crimes since 1992, but refused to warn police, parishioners or the public, the release said.

The abuse began, the suit claims, after Emerson groomed the boy by "lavishing attention on him and buying him gifts, including silk boxer shorts" and "coercing the child to watch a pornographic video."

In 1986, after alleged molestation in Indiana, Emerson was moved from Gary to Orlando, Fla., where he allegedly abused two more boys. In 1992, after Orlando's bishop complained about Emerson's alleged misdeeds with children, church officials brought the priest back to Gary.

The civil suit seeks unspecified damages and a jury trial. The first molestation suit against Emerson was filed in 2004 and a second was filed earlier this year, the release said.

According to the suit, Emerson worked at several parishes in Indiana, including East Chicago, Hammond, LaPorte, Michigan City and the former Hoosier Boys Town in Schererville.

He was ousted from the priesthood by the Vatican in 2006. Emerson, now in his mid-60s, was last known to be living in Nevada.


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