|Victim Wins Court Ruling in Pedophile Priest Case
November 16, 2010
But hours later, Tulsa bishop appeals to OK Supreme Court
Sex abuse organization blasts prelate for “desperate legal tactics”
Top Catholic official is “afraid of an open courtroom,” group claims
SNAP: Slattery’s argument is “archaic” & has failed in all but three states
Self-help group wants others who saw, suspected or suffered misdeeds to come forward
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, a nationally-known clergy sex abuse victim and advocate will
-- disclose a new court ruling and victory for an Oklahoma man who was molested by a Tulsa priest, and
-- blast Tulsa’s bishop for his “immediate, desperate and callous” appeal of that ruling to the state’s highest court.
He will also
-- harshly criticize Tulsa’s Catholic bishop for not ousting the twice-accused predator priest, and
-- urge him to reconsider and suspend the cleric immediately, for the sake of public safety.
TODAY, Tuesday, Nov. 16 @ 1:30 p.m.
Outside the Holy Family Catholic Cathedral, 810 S. Boulder in downtown Tulsa
One or two adults who were sexually victimized by clergy and belong to a support group called SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), including a Missouri man who is SNAP’s long-time executive director
On Nov. 9, Judge Rebecca Nightingale signed an order letting an alleged victim of a Tulsa priest, Fr. Kenneth Lewis, to proceed in his civil child sex abuse and cover up lawsuit against the Tulsa Catholic diocese. However, Tulsa Bishop Edward Slattery immediately appealed the decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, seeking a highly unusual and rarely granted “writ of prohibition.”
The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, was originally filed in 2007. It charges that Lewis molested a boy in 2001 on a trip to Chicago.
According to BishopAccountability.org, Lewis had been sent by church supervisors for treatment for sexual troubles in 1994 and then reassigned to a parish. Tulsa’s bishop did not remove him until 2002 even after repeated complaints. No criminal charges were filed against him because the statute of limitations had run. Lewis has been suspended from ministry and his whereabouts are unknown. A photo of him is available at BishopAccountability.org
Slattery’s claim is that lawsuits against church officials inherently violate the First Amendment. But his theory has only been upheld in three states (MO, ME and WI) and largely in rulings handed out 13 years or more ago. The overwhelming majority of courts in the last decade or so have let victims sue church supervisors for the crimes of their clergy. Justices have held that the Constitution protects religious belief, not criminal actions.
One of the church employees mentioned in the suit is Fr. Paul Eichhoff, who himself has been accused at least twice of molesting boys. In 2002, he was accused of molesting then 8 or 9 year old Kelly Kirk of Tulsa when Kirk was in the second or third grade at St. Mary’s school in the 1970s.
This summer, a second man who reports having been assaulted as a child by Eichhoff spoke publicly in Tulsa. He says that Eichhoff molested him in 1978 when he was a nine-year old at St. Mary’s Parish in Tulsa. But Tulsa’s bishop hasn’t yet suspended Eichhoff from his post at St. Cecelia Parish in Claremore (918 341 2343). SNAP is alarmed by this inaction and believes it puts kids needlessly at risk and violates the US Catholic bishops’ national sex abuse policy.
SNAP wants Eichhoff suspended immediately, for the safety of children.
Lewis victim is represented by St. Paul Minnesota attorney Jeff Anderson (651 227 9990, 612 817 8665 cell) and Tulsa attorney Paul Carr.
David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP Executive Director (314) 566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com
Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Director (314) 503-0003, SNAPdorris@gmail.com
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.