Lawsuit Filed Naming Priest

By Judy L. Thomas
Kansas City Star
June 30, 2011

A lawsuit filed today alleges sexual abuse by a Kansas City priest removed from his duties earlier this month for what the diocese called credible allegations of misconduct with minors.

The lawsuit — the second to be filed against the Rev. Michael Tierney in nine months alleging sexual abuse — was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court by Edward Sandridge, 52. It accuses Tierney of sexually abusing Sandridge at a YMCA in the early 1970s and says the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph knew of Tierney’s misconduct with children and covered it up.

The lawsuit names both Tierney and the diocese as defendants.

Tierney could not be reached for comment. A lawyer representing him on the previous lawsuit said that Tierney had done nothing wrong.

According to the lawsuit, Tierney began paying special attention to Sandridge when he was 13, taking the shy, reclusive boy under his wing at St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church.

“Coming to St. Elizabeth’s in the 7th grade, Edward did not feel he fit in,” the lawsuit says. “Father Tierney gave him extra attention and affection, even taking him out to eat at times.”

In the winter of the 1971-1972 school year, the lawsuit alleges, Tierney invited Sandridge to go swimming at the YMCA. When they arrived, the locker room was empty and Tierney removed his clothes, telling Sandridge that “they swim naked here.” Tierney pulled Sandridge’s swim trunks off, then took him to the pool, where they swam nude together. Tierney tickled and wrestled with the boy, repeatedly pulling him close, the lawsuit says.

“Edward to this day does not remember all of the events that transpired,” the lawsuit says. “He does recall beginning to cry at the YMCA and he cried all the way home.”

The lawsuit says that Sandridge has been going through the process of recovering the memories of the event. The memories began coming back, it says, when Sandridge learned last fall that Tierney was still active in ministry.

On June 2, Bishop Robert Finn removed Tierney from his duties as pastor of Christ the King parish in Kansas City and from all other public ministry, saying that the diocese and its review board — which is charged with assessing sexual abuse allegations against priests — had received “credible reports alleging sexual misconduct with minors by Father Michael Tierney in the early 1970s and 1980s.”

The diocese said in its statement that “Father Tierney continues to deny these allegations, but has cooperated fully in this process.”

Tierney was accused in a civil lawsuit last year of molesting a 13-year-old Missouri boy in 1971. The lawsuit alleged that the abuse occurred while the boy and Tierney were moving items at the home of the priest’s mother. At the time the lawsuit was filed, a lawyer representing Tierney said his client had done nothing wrong.

In a civil lawsuit filed in February against another priest, Tierney was accused of making “lewd and inappropriate comments” to a boy who was allegedly being molested by the priest. Tierney was not named as a defendant in that lawsuit.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said today that the diocese should have moved faster to remove Tierney from his duties.

“For more than six months, SNAP repeatedly urged Bishop Robert Finn to suspend Tierney,” said David Clohessy, the group’s executive director. “Only after controversy began swirling around the case of Father Shawn Ratigan did Finn finally suspend Tierney.”

Ratigan, a diocesan prieset, was charged in May with three counts of possessing child pornography.

By keeping Tierney in his position, Clohessy said, Finn violated the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ national child sexual abuse policy which says that “credibly accused” priests must be quickly suspended.

| Judy L. Thomas,


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