Native American Group Files Suit against Catholic Diocese of Rapid City, Others for Alleged Abuse

By Mary Garrigan
Rapid City Journal

December 19, 2008

Eight Native American plaintiffs filed lawsuits in circuit court in Rapid City on Thursday that make more sexual and physical abuse allegations against numerous Catholic clergy at a former Catholic boarding school on the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

The lawsuits name the Catholic Diocese of Rapid City; regional, national and worldwide Jesuit organizations; the Sisters of St. Francis, a religious order in Denver; and the Rosebud Educational Society/St. Francis Mission as defendants. Also named are individual priests, nuns and brothers who served at St. Francis Indian School in St. Francis.

The abuse allegations date from the 1960s to the mid-1980s, said plaintiff attorney John Manly, and involve boarding school students who were 5 to 16 years old at the time and are now in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Some of the alleged perpetrators are deceased, many are as yet unidentified, and others are listed only by first name or by their religious name.

The plaintiffs allege a pattern of decades-old "sadomasochistic" abuse that one attorney called unprecedented in his experience with clergy sexual abuse.

"The physical abuse is really combined with sexual abuse, so that you really have sadomasochistic abuse in a controlled environment," Manly, a California attorney associated with childhood sexual abuse lawsuits. "Of the hundreds of cases I've done, I've never really seen that before."

He said the reservation school cases are "among the most important ever filed against the church. What makes them different ... is that the abuse happened in an institutional environment. No parents, no one to call. These children were trapped," Manly said.

The eight new plaintiffs: Pauline S. Cloudman, Regina One Star, Wendell Big Crow Sr., David L. Emery, Tom Stewart, Rose Bone Shirt Bad Hand, Philomene Whitlance and Karen Waln, join seven other people who filed a similar lawsuit in 2005 that has been winding its way through the court system for the past four years.

On Oct. 27, 7th Circuit Judge Peter Fuller dismissed the claims of two of those original plaintiffs, Lloyd One Star and Marian Sorace, against the St. Francis Mission, the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus and the Rapid City diocese. Fuller ruled the statute of limitations had expired in those two instances based on the plaintiffs' own testimony. Sexual abuse victims must file civil lawsuits within three years of remembering or becoming aware of the abuse.

Fuller's decision was appealed to the state Supreme Court on Dec. 1 and is still pending.

Another 14 lawsuits were filed Thursday in circuit court in Minnehaha County

against the old St. Paul's School in Marty, the Diocese of Sioux Falls and various religious organizations. Both dioceses contend that the boarding schools were run by religious orders and were not under the administrative control of any diocese.

Bishop Blase Cupich, head of the Diocese of Rapid City, issued a statement Thursday, saying: "The case involving the St. Francis Indian School is being addressed within the court process and has been since 2005. The Diocese of Rapid City does not consider it appropriate at this time to comment on this pending litigation."

Cupich was elected last month to head the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, which leads the Catholic Church's response to the clergy sexual abuse scandals that broke nationally in 2002. In a letter to his fellow bishops, Cupich said the bishops' conference "dare not become complacent" on the issue and called the 12 credible instances of clergy sexual abuse of minors in 2007 12 too many.

Manly and his associate counsel, attorneys Greg Yates and Mario Gonzalez, held a press conference outside the Catholic Chancery offices Thursday and called on the bishop and Jesuit authorities to release all settlement details of any clergy abuse cases in their jurisdictions.

"This is not about the Catholic faith. It's about holding the hierarchy accountable," Manly said.

He said the Jesuits' Wisconsin Province has a detailed archive system that would corroborate the abuse allegations.

"I know there's archival evidence of sexual abuse," he said. "They knew these guys were perpetrators, and they dumped them in Indian Country because they knew the Indian people were powerless to speak up."

On Thursday, the Diocese of Rapid City re-issued its invitation for victims of sexual abuse by church personnel to come forward by contacting its Victim Assistance Coordinator Maryann Tully, who can be reached at 209-3418.


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