Anonymous Man Sues Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, Saying He Was Abused by Priest

By Mitch Mitchell
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
November 6, 2010

More than a decade after his death, people who say they were sexually abused by Monsignor James Reilly continue to seek redress in the courts.

A man filing as John Doe I sued in October, naming the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth as the defendant. Doe is asking for more than $50,000 in damages. The Fort Worth diocese has already settled cases with at least 18 people claiming abuse, their records show.

According to the plaintiff's original petition, Reilly engaged in sexual acts with and abused Doe while on church property between 1973 and 1974, while Riley was a priest at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Arlington.

"We do not know who this victim is, so we cannot know the details of the lawsuit because it's filed under the name John Doe," said Pat Svacina, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth. "It will be when we are further into the lawsuit before we know what's going on."

Reilly, who died May 2, 1999, was at St. Maria Goretti from November 1969 until he retired in October 1987. According to Steven Schulte, the attorney representing Doe, the abuse happened while his client was an adolescent. Schulte said his client has asked to remain anonymous, and that he cannot go into details.

"The reason we take these lawsuits is to protect the children," he said. "I'm fully aware of instances of inappropriate sexual misconduct between priests and parishioners dating back to the '60s through today. I think it's truly unfortunate and sad that Monsignor Reilly harmed so many individuals. I'm aware of numerous victims. But even one victim is too much."

Tahira Khan Merritt, a Dallas attorney who has represented or represents 19 people in lawsuits connected to Reilly, said the priest apparently molested children as young as age 9 and as old as 16. Clients have told her that Reilly would pull children out of class and molest them in the church rectory, Merritt said.

Reilly was a priest for a long time, and children in several different groups of altar boys were victimized, Merritt said. Others may yet come forward with a story concerning Reilly's conduct, Merritt said.

Lisa Kendzior, with the DFW chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said those who are abused when they are young typically do not have the strength to come forward until they are much older. People often never tell their stories about the abuse they suffered because what they have to say is often ugly and not well-received by others, Kendzior said.

Some of those who have been abused never say anything and are able to function well in society, Kendzior said. Others fall prey to substance and alcohol abuse. There are those who have been abused who may never take their case to court, while others seek redress in the courts as a way of healing their wounds, she said.

"Children often do not tell these stories," she said. "The average person coming in our door is a middle-aged person. First, they try to put it behind him. But like anything that's vile, it has to come out."

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752 or


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