New Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Abuse by Area Priest

By Matt Campbell
Kansas City Star
September 13, 2012

A Florida man who says he repressed memories for most of his adult life of being sexually abused by a priest filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

The man, now 57, says he was abused by the Rev. Jerry Joseph Wegenek when he was about 11 years old.

Wegenek died last year at age 73. The suit says he was assigned to St. Gabriel and St. Patrick parishes in Kansas City when the abuse took place, which would have been in the late 1960s.

The lawsuit alleges that the diocese knew of inappropriate sexual conduct by Wegenek with minor children and did nothing about it and did not report it to authorities.

The diocese said Thursday that Wegenek was removed from the ministry in June 1994 following an allegation that he had been involved in sexual misconduct with a teenage boy in the 1970s.

“The diocese received no allegation of sexual misconduct by Wegenek prior to 1994,” the diocese said in a statement.

The suit alleges that Wegenek associated with Monsignor Thomas O’Brien and the Rev. Thomas Reardon, both of whom have been accused in other sexual abuse lawsuits. O’Brien and Reardon have retired from the ministry.

The plaintiff in the new suit, who is not named, says that he met Wegenek at a public swimming pool and that the priest took special interest in him and the two developed a close relationship. The suit alleges Wegenek repeatedly asked the boy to accompany him on trips and outings, including church-sponsored and church-affiliated retreats.

“During these outings, plaintiff was repeatedly molested and sexually abused,” the lawsuit states, adding that the abuse took place in motels, church parking lots and a rectory.

At one time, the plaintiff claims, Wegenek said the gymnasium floor on which they were to sleep was too hard. He says the priest took him to a motel and raped him. Afterward, the suit alleges, Wegenek prayed over the boy “and told him to tell no one of what happened since it was special.”

The plaintiff says he was raised in a devout Catholic household and taught to have a deep respect for the church and reverence for its clergy. He says he repressed all memory of the abuse until late 2010.

The suit says that the man has had difficulties in relationships and employment and has suffered depression along with suicidal thoughts. The suit asks the court for a jury trial and seeks an unspecified amount of money in damages.

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