Savannah Diocese Faces New Lawsuit

By Adam Parker
Post and Courier
December 11, 2011

The Catholic Diocese of Savannah faces a new lawsuit alleging child sexual abuse.

A complaint filed Nov. 16 in Jasper County's Court of Common Pleas against the diocese and its bishops accuses church officials of failing to protect the plaintiff, identified only as John Doe, from the advances of former priest Wayland Yoder Brown.

Brown allegedly took someone across the state line to South Carolina and repeatedly abused him there, according to the suit.

The case is similar to another that named Brown as a sex offender, which was settled by the Savannah diocese in 2009 for $4.24 million.

Charleston attorney Scott Beard, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiff in the new case, noted Brown's previous convictions.

"According to our lawsuit, he was placed in a position of authority with young boys even though church officials knew of his inappropriate sexual behavior with minors," Beard said in a statement.

Savannah diocese officials declined to comment because the case is in active litigation, communications director Barbara King said.

In 2006, Allan Carl Ranta Jr. sued the Savannah diocese, alleging that Brown had repeatedly molested him about 30 years ago, often taking him into South Carolina, according to court documents.

Diocese officials had been informed numerous times by concerned observers about Brown but failed, or refused, to take steps in keeping the priest away from children, then covered up his crimes, the suit charged.

Brown victimized at least eight children between 1968 and 1986, according to a diocese referral to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, obtained by lawyers. He had been sent by the diocese to the St. Luke Institute in Maryland for evaluation and counseling in 1986.

Immediately upon Brown's release, then-Bishop Raymond Lessard appointed Brown associate pastor of St. James the Less Catholic Church in Savannah.

In 2002, Brown was arrested in Maryland on charges of child abuse and perverted practice, records show. Convicted the following year, he served five years of a 10-year sentence on two counts of child molestation and was released on parole in April 2008.



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