Kansas City Diocese Seeks Dismissal of Lawsuit, Day after Announcing Plan to Investigate Abuse

By Maria Sudekum Fisher
Daily Reporter
June 11, 2011

A day after the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph announced a plan to investigate reports of sexual misconduct by employees, its lawyer asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit accusing a priest of abusing a 13-year-old boy 40 years ago.

Lawyers for the diocese and the priest told Jackson County Circuit Judge Ann Mesle the lawsuit should be dismissed for several reasons, including because the plaintiff waited too long to make his claims.

The lawsuit filed in September says a 52-year-old man, identified as John Doe BP in the lawsuit, was molested in the 1970s by the Rev. Michael Tierney. Tierney has denied the allegations. The lawsuit claims the victim repressed the memories until about 2008 and accuses Tierney of fondling him when he was 13, while they were at Tierney's mother's home in the Kansas City area.

The man's lawyer, Rebecca Randles, said the lawsuit also accuses the diocese of failing to keep the child safe from Tierney.

"They had actual knowledge that Tierney was abusing children," Randles said.

Chad Blomberg, an attorney for the diocese, said there was no evidence that anyone in the diocese thought then that Tierney was abusive.

Mesle said she would rule later on the motion to dismiss the case.

Last week, the diocese removed Tierney from his duties as pastor of a Kansas City parish because it said it had received recent "credible reports" of sexual misconduct involving Tierney. Tierney has denied those allegations as well.

The diocese announced Thursday what it called a "sweeping plan" to deal with recent allegations of sexual misconduct in the diocese. Bishop Robert Finn said the plan was part of his "call for change," and included the appointment a former federal prosecutor to investigate how the diocese handled the case of another Kansas City-area priest accused of possessing child pornography.

The Rev. Shawn Ratigan has pleaded not guilty to three counts of possessing child pornography and is jailed on $200,000 bond.

Finn has apologized repeatedly for not taking action earlier on Ratigan, who has been accused in a separate federal lawsuit of taking pornographic pictures of a girl from 2006 to 2010. That lawsuit also claims the diocese and Finn tried to cover up the priest's crimes to save the church's reputation.

Finn said the diocese also would review its policies and appoint an independent monitor to field and investigate reports of suspicious or inappropriate behavior by diocese employees. He said more initiatives would be announced soon.


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