Lawsuit Alleges Crosier Priest Accused of Molesting Student in 1980s

By Sunita Vijayan
Salinas Californian
March 30, 2012

SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) Western Regional Director, Joelle Casteix, stands outside Palma High School on Thursday in Salinas. / Travis Geske/The Salinas Californian

Palma High was among those named in a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday by a man claiming he was molested by a Crosier priest while he attended the Salinas school.

The lawsuit filed by St. Paul, Minn.-based law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates on behalf of Christopher Spedden, the former Palma High School student, accuses ex-teacher, the Rev. Gerald Funcheon, of sexually abusing him at the age of 13 during a ski trip in the 1980s at a resort near Bend, Ore.

Also named in the lawsuit filed in Minnesota are Funcheon, now 73, and his religious order, the Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross, which is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.

According to Palma High School board president, the Rev. Patrick Dunne, the only one authorized to speak to the media, wasn't available until Monday.

The school was named as one of the Irish Christian Brothers schools that employed men who are alleged to have sexually abused children news that came after a court order stemming from the April bankruptcy filing of the Irish Christian Brothers and New Rochelle, N.Y.-based Christian Brothers Institute after sex-abuse claims.

The deadline to file any sexual-abuse claims is Aug. 1.

Michael Reck, an attorney for the law firm, said Spedden was the first victim of Funcheon's at Palma to come forward, making his case the first one filed in light of the impending deadline.

Because of the abuse, Reck said, Spedden has suffered from years of confusion and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

The lawsuit also claims that prior to the abuse, the Crosiers knew about Funcheon's sexual abuse of minors. The claim alleges that this is information Palma had or should have known about.

"The Crosiers' and Palma's failure to act on that knowledge also contributed to the Plaintiff's injuries and his inability to: report the abuse; appreciate the abuse and resulting injuries he sustained; or obtain help for the abuse and injuries he suffered," the lawsuit states. "The Crosiers and Palma engaged in a pattern and practice of fraudulent conduct in order to conceal the criminal and harmful acts of its agents and employees."

Prior to Palma, according to the lawsuit, Funcheon taught at Damien Memorial School in Hawaii where he allegedly abused children. Funcheon served at Palma from 1984-85, the claim states.

Reck said Spedden decided against confidentiality and disclosed his name within the court documents to encourage other victims to come forward.

Two other former students have come forward with sexual abuse allegations against Funcheon at Palma, he said, although lawsuits haven't been filed. However, Reck said, they expect to file more claims and lawsuits as the deadline draws closer.

Members and supporters of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, a national support group for clergy-abuse victims, returned Thursday to Palma High in response the lawsuit filed.

In late February, the group named three men, including Funcheon, who once worked at the private Salinas school and who had been accused of sexual abuse. The other two are the Rev. Jerome Heustis and the Rev. Robert Brouillette. Palma has said Heustis and Brouillette served at the high school from 1976 to 1982 and 1964 to 1968, respectively.

"This little boy was sexually abused by Fr. Gerald Funcheon," said Joelle Casteix, SNAP's western regional director, holding up an enlarged photo of Spedden as a child. "The tragedy of this is school officials here knew that Gerald Funcheon was a child molester before he even set foot on the property and they didn't warn the families; they didn't warn the children; they didn't warn anyone; and they put little boys like Chris Spedden directly in harm's way."








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