Court Upholds Decision Clearing Bishop, Diocese

By Bill Sherman
Tulsa World
February 1, 2014

Bishop Edward J. Slattery. Photo by MICHAEL WYKE

The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court’s decision clearing Bishop Edward Slattery and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tulsa of wrongdoing in connection with a civil lawsuit filed by a man who says he was molested as a child by a parish priest.

In June 2012, Judge Daman Cantrell ruled in favor of the diocese and Slattery in Tulsa County District Court. The appeals court found that the findings of fact and conclusions of law adequately explained that decision.

The suit was brought by Kelly Kirk, who says he was molested, and his father, Gordon Kirk, alleging that Slattery and the diocese inflicted intentional emotional distress on them. Kelly Kirk also alleged invasion of privacy.

The accusations stemmed from a 2002 slander lawsuit against the Kirks filed by the Rev. Paul Eichhoff, a priest in the diocese. As a result of that lawsuit, the Kirks’ names were made public. The Kirks alleged that the diocese acted in concert with Eichhoff to file that suit.

Eichhoff sued the Kirks for slander after Kelly Kirk in 2002 accused him of sexually assaulting him in the late 1970s while Kirk was a student at a Tulsa Catholic elementary school.

No criminal charges were filed in the case.

When Kirk made the original accusation, Slattery put Eichhoff on administrative leave while the diocese investigated and then restored him to his position as the pastor of St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in Claremore, where he still serves.

When Eichhoff sued the Kirks for slander, they countersued for damages from the alleged sexual assault.

In 2004, a Tulsa County jury cleared Eichhoff of sexual assault in the civil suit but also cleared the Kirks of slandering him.

In 2010 a second man, Paul Weber of Denver, accused Eichhoff of molesting him as a child. The diocese investigated and was unable to substantiate that allegation.



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