Sex Abuse Case Filed by Deephaven Attorney against Archdiocese Involves Former Long Lake Priest

By Jay Corn
The Patch
June 18, 2013

Father Thomas Stitts died of cancer at the age of 50 in 1985. He spent seven years at St. George's in Long Lake.

A Deephaven attorney has filed a civil suit against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on behalf of a Minnesota man who claims a priest who spent seven years at St. George’s Catholic Church in Long Lake molested him in the early 1970s.

In court documents filed earlier this month, Patrick Noaker states the Archdiocese was aware that Father Thomas Stitts was sexually inappropriate with boys throughout his career and was repeatedly shuffled from parish to parish in a deliberate attempt to conceal his actions.

Father Stitts died of cancer at the age of 50 in 1985.

In all, more than a dozen cases—including two stemming from alleged conduct at St. George’s—have been filed against Father Stitts. Noaker has represented almost all of Stitts’ alleged victims.

“The abuse in this latest case occurred while Father Stitts was serving as a priest at St. Leo’s in St. Paul,” Noaker said. “The Archdiocese knew he had acted inappropriately at other parishes. I handled 12 previous cases. That’s how I know that information. I think I’m more knowledgeable about Father Stitts’ activity than anyone—except for the Archdiocese, of course.”

The full complaint against Father Stitts can be read by clicking here.

One previous case filed by Noaker has been resolved. One other was dismissed. The remaining cases are all pending.

Requests to speak with Archbishop John Ninestedt about Noaker’s filing were denied, but the Archdiocese did provide the following statement:

“When the archdiocese implemented all of the requirements of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, we took extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of young people in our parishes, schools, religious education classes and all of our programs. We continue to do so today. Over the last 20 years, few, if any, other organizations have instituted such rigorous measures to protect young people.”

In addition to St. George’s in Long Lake and St. Leos, Father Stitts also served at St. Matthew’s in St. Paul, Our Lady of Grace in Edina, Guardian Angels in Hastings, Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul and St. John the Baptist in New Brighton. His time in Long Lake, from 1973-1980, was the longest stint at a single parish and immediately followed the alleged activity contained in this month’s court filing.

“There are abuse cases involving kids out there (in Long Lake) during the 1974-75 timeframe,” Noaker said. “Those two cases are pending right now in Ramsey County. They involve two brothers.”

Noaker went on to say a new Minnesota law called the Victims Protection Act allowed the cases out of Long Lake and the latest one filed June 4 to be heard in front of a judge.

“The Legislature doesn’t call it a window, but it’s a three-year period, that began when the governor signed the bill, where the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases is waived,” Noaker said. “Under pervious laws these claims would have been time barred.”

In a rare display of overwhelming bipartisanship, the Child Victims Act was passed unanimously last session by the State Senate and received only a handful of “no” votes in the House. Governor Dayton immediately signed the bill.

Delaware, Hawaii and California have similar laws, and Noaker said he expects other states to pass similar Legislation in upcoming sessions.

“The reason for this type of window is that there are a large number of people who have been sexually assaulted as a kid,” Noaker said. “In fact, the numbers range from one in four to one in six, which is why I use one in five. That’s a lot of people, so the Legislature learned a little bit about these numbers and realized there were an awful lot of people who weren’t able to get the help they needed to recover.”

The Archdiocese will answer Noaker’s complaint sometime during the next 60 days. The process of discovery—including obtaining documents from the Archdiocese on Father Stitts—will then occur. 

The case will then be presented to a jury, who could award monetary compensation to Noaker’s client. Exactly how much will be at the jury’s discretion and hinge on whether they believe the Archdiocese was negligent in the way it supervised Father Stitts.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.