Another Clergy Sex Abuse Lawsuit Filed against Priest, Archdiocese
October 29, 2013
[lawsuit and documents]
St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson unveiled another lawsuit on Tuesday in a growing clergy sex abuse scandal, naming both Father Robert M. Thurner and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as defendants.
Anderson filed the lawsuit on behalf of a woman in her 30s who says she was sexually abused by Thurner when she was a young girl at St. Joseph's parish in West St. Paul in the mid-1980s.
The suit seeks unspecified damages over $50,000 and an order to compel the archdiocese to release the names of all priests who have been credibly accused of molesting children.
Anderson said the alleged victim, Jane Doe 23, was 7 or 8 years old when she was abused, and had been attending second grade at St. Joseph's School at the time.
"It was an honor for their family and a huge honor for her to have this parish priest at their home," Mike Finnegan said. "That is where he sexually assaulted her."
The woman's legal team said fresh public criticism fueled by recent news reports about the handling of sex abuse cases led the woman to come forward.
"Jane Doe 23 came here today and filed this lawsuit because she doesn't want the same thing to happen to anyone else," Finnegan said.
The lawsuit also accuses the archdiocese of neglect for "allowing Thurner continued access to children even after Thurner admitted in 1982, to then-Archbishop John Roach, that he sexually abused a 16-year-old boy and purchased alcohol for the boy," a news release said.
The suit alleges that instead of referring the case involving the teen boy to police, church officials instead chose to transfer Thurner to St. Joseph's despite knowing he was a danger to children based on his previous confession.
To support this claim, attorneys released internal documents and memos between Thurner and top officials in the archdiocese, including depositions of Thurner, Msgr. Jerome Boxleitner and Rev. Robert Carlson, who is now the archbishop of St. Louis.
Anderson's and Finnegan say an expert in mandatory reporting concluded that Roach, Carlson and other church officials violated state law by not telling law enforcement they knew Thurner had a sexual relationship with an underage boy -- a fact they say led to their client being molested, and a pattern they have seen too many times before.
Thurner worked at several parishes in Minnesota between 1951 and 1991, including those in St. Paul, Prior Lake, Hopkins, West St. Paul and Bloomington. He retired after he was named in a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse.
No criminal charges were ever filed against Thurner, who currently has no listed phone number; however, the attorneys who filed the suit on Tuesday say they know of at least four victims allegedly abused by Thurner -- two of whom settled with the archdiocese in the early 1990s.
These new suits come after the Minnesota Legislature's decision to allow a 3-year window in the statute of limitations to allow victims of child sex abuse to file civil lawsuits against their abusers.
The archdiocese did not immediately comment on the filing, but a spokesman told the Associated Press via e-mail that Thurner is believed to be "dealing with some serious and advanced elderly issues." Officials from the archdiocese in St. Louis also did not offer comment on the lawsuit.