Priest Abuse May Have Caused Suicide

By Tess Koppelman
September 6, 2011,0,15074.story

[with video]

The parents of a young suicide victim are filing a civil lawsuit saying the 14-year-old killed himself after a priest sexually abused him. The lawsuit is against the Kansas City St. Joseph Diocese and Father Thomas O'brien who is personally named in now more than two dozen lawsuits.

The young man killed himself almost 30 years ago and the victim's family says filing this lawsuit brings back all that pain. They say they need to speak up to protect other children from the same fate.

"We went through this 28 years ago," said Don Teeman. "I think it's worse now knowing what our son went through."

Brian Teeman's parents and sister never knew why he shot himself in November 1983.

"In the last eight weeks is when we found out about our son before that," Rosemary Teeman said. "Before that, no clue."

They found out when their son's childhood friend Jon Couzens called to explain what he went through and what he witnessed.

"That was the worst call of my life," Jon Couzens said.

Couzens says Father O'brien molested him, his friend Brian and two other altar boys at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Independence. In his lawsuit, Couzens said that the boys were told if they ever said anything they would be kicked out of the church, they'd go to hell and their parents would disown them.

"It shouldn't have happened," Rosemary Teeman said. "I guarantee you my son endured a lot of pain from what that priest did to him."

Teeman may have suffered alone like Couzens says he did all these years. Now a large group of friends and family are showing their support. The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests or SNAP says victims don't have to suffer alone.

"We hope people coming forward and speaking the truth will encourage other people to come forward," said Mike Hunter with SNAP.

The group's ultimate goal is to expose the abuse.

"Lets get it out there and expose these priests or whoever it is," Couzens said. "Lets get it out there and get something done about it."

Don Teeman says if someone would have done something maybe his son would be here today.

The Kansas City St Joseph Diocese confirms that in 1983 it received a complaint about Father O'Brien and he went to a treatment program. In 2002, O'Brien was told he could no longer present himself as a priest or celebrate Mass. The Teeman's say O'Brien should be excommunicated and behind bars.


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