Three Men Sue Local Diocese over 1970s Abuse Claims

By Mary Ann Cavazos
April 9, 2010

CORPUS CHRISTI — Three men have sued the Catholic Diocese of Corpus Christi and its bishop saying they were sexually abused by a priest in the 1970s when they were altar boys.

The suit, filed on Wednesday, alleges Msgr. Hugh Clarke abused the boys from 1972 to 1975 while he was associate pastor at Christ the King in Corpus Christi. Clarke died in 2002.

It accuses the diocese of gross negligence and that diocese officials knew or should've known of the abuse but allowed it to go on and then tried to hide it.

It names as defendants the diocese, its bishop, the Most Rev. Wm. Michael Mulvey, his predecessors and any bishops that follow Mulvey.

Diocese spokesman Marty Wind released a statement saying any allegations of misconduct by clergy or church workers of the diocese are always taken seriously and fully investigated.

The statement also said Mulvey wanted to make clear that the diocese's policy is that no priest, church worker or other person who has had a credible allegation against them will hold, or has held a ministry position.

Two of the men who filed the suit are brothers who live in Bexar County. The third man lives in Washington state. All three are listed as John Does in the suit, which asks for a jury trial and damages including medical expenses, for emotional and psychological pain, for alcohol and drug abuse and the loss of self-esteem and faith.

"The church was really the center of the families' lives," the men's Dallas-based attorney Tahira Merritt said. "They were very, very vulnerable."

Merritt said on Friday the brothers made a formal complaint to the diocese in 2007 and felt the diocese did nothing to investigate or seek out other potential victims. She said the brothers were offered counseling but declined because the counselor would've been of the diocese's choosing.

Wind said it is diocese policy to offer counseling and support to anyone who makes abuse allegations related to the diocese.

Those individuals are able to choose from several professionals outside the diocese, Wind said.

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