Minnesota: Former Altar Boy Sues Church, Alleging Abuse by Priest in Late 1950s

By Emily Gurnon
The Pioneer Press
November 18, 2013

[the lawsuit]

The Catholic Church was sued Monday over the alleged actions of a priest who served in Hastings and several southern Minnesota towns, including the sexual abuse of a boy. A state victims advocate said he himself was one of at least 27 alleging abuse by the cleric.

The Rev. William J. Marks worked in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of New Ulm from 1948 to 1979, according to the lawsuit, filed Monday in Ramsey County District Court.

The anonymous plaintiff, identified as John Doe 107, was between 10 and 14 when he was abused by Marks between 1957 and 1960, the lawsuit said. The abuse took place at St. John's Catholic Church in Hector when the plaintiff was an altar boy, the suit said.

New lawsuits are being filed on old cases because of a 2013 state law, the Child Victims Act, that creates a three-year window for civil lawsuits by victims of child abuse.

Marks' victim alleges he abused him by "hugging (him) hard and sliding his hands down (the boy's) pants, and touching the inside of (his) thigh ... while (the boy) was changing into and out of his altar boy robes before and after Mass," the suit said.

Marks died in 1979 and is buried in the cemetery of a Green Valley church where he worked.

John Doe 107's attorney, Patrick Noaker of Minnetonka, said he did not know how many other victims Marks had.

"Pedophile priests do not stop at one," Noaker said in a statement. "Trusting children in rural locations are particularly vulnerable to unsupervised priests like Marks."

One man who said he also was abused by Marks at St. John's issued a statement Monday. Bob Schwiderski, the state director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said he is one of 27 he calls the "Boys of Hector" who reported abuse to officials of either the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis or the Diocese of New Ulm, which formed in 1958 in a geographical area previously covered by the archdiocese.

"Over the decades, our concerns and hopes met deceit, callousness, and recklessness from the diocese and archdiocese as victims died from suicide and disease, suffered crippling physical or mental illnesses, and lived with shattered faith," Schwiderski said in a statement.

Schwiderski, along with three other altar boys, sued the New Ulm Diocese in 1994. He settled out of court.

A church assignment history for Marks, provided by Schwiderski, shows the priest serving at St. Mark in Shakopee beginning in the 1930s. From there he went to St. Dominic in Northfield, the former Guardian Angels parish in Hastings and churches in Faribault, Manannah Township and Litchfield before arriving in 1945 at St. Dionysius in Tyler. From there he went to Hector and then Green Valley.

Noaker, the attorney, asked any others who have information about abusive priests to come forward.

The current plaintiff lives in Colorado, according to the suit.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said it was investigating the claims of the lawsuit. Marks became an employee of the Diocese of New Ulm beginning in 1958, when it was formed, said archdiocese spokesman James Accurso.

The New Ulm Diocese did not immediately respond late Monday to a request for comment.



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