Legal Twist Pits One Diocese against Another
March 28, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS - In a case of Catholic Church versus Catholic Church, a clergy sex abuse lawsuit pits one diocese against another.
In a rare legal move, the Diocese of New Ulm is suing another diocese and a religious order, accusing both of sending a priest to New Ulm in the early 1980s without telling the diocese that the priest had long history of being accused of child sexual abuse.
The New Ulm Diocese lawsuit stems from another lawsuit filed in 2013 by a man named in court documents as John Doe 103, who says Markey groped him and his two brothers when Markey was invited to his family's home for dinner in 1982. The man asked that MPR News and KARE 11 hide his face to protect his family. He says at the time of the alleged assaults, Markey was filling in at rural churches in Henderson and Jessenland. John Doe 103's family attended both churches.
"He was at our parish for like seven to ten days and he was in our house for two hours and he abused three people," said John Doe 103 in an interview.
In its Third Party Complaint filed in February in Brown County court, the Diocese of New Ulm blames the Diocese of Clogher in Ireland and a religious order known as the Servants of the Paraclete for sending Markey to Minnesota.
Markey became a priest in Ireland in 1952. Documents filed in several court cases show he was accused of sexually abusing young boys as far back as the 1960s, and received treatment several times in Ireland and England before coming to the United States.
While in the U.S., Markey went to the Paraclete treatment facility in New Mexico, which is known for taking in problem priests with various addictions and sexual problems, according to court documents.
The Paracletes sent several priests to the New Ulm Diocese to take part in a counselor training program at the Willmar State Hospital, said Father Francis Garvey in a recent deposition in another lawsuit. Garvey ran the Willmar program in the 1980s. Markey arrived in Willmar in December 1981, according to the New Ulm Diocese, and did some temporary parish work. He left the diocese seven months later.
Markey died in 2012 while awaiting trial on child rape charges in Ireland.
In its complaint naming the Diocese of Clogher and the Servants of the Paraclete as defendants, the New Ulm Diocese argues it never would have accepted Markey for assignment within the diocese if it knew about his history.
Legal experts familiar with clergy sex abuse cases say the move is unique because the church rarely turns on itself. Victims of clergy sex abuse have long said the Catholic Church is closed within its ranks, with priests and church leaders loyal to each other.
"This is the first time I've seen it in a dozen years of handling these cases," says Pat Noaker, who represents John Doe 103 and other victims of clergy sex abuse.
The Diocese of Clogher and the Servants of the Paraclete would have told the diocese. So that's why I think that these suits are rare because I think that communication is happening and they're putting them in parishes anyway."
While rare, this legal loyalty shift happened twice in 2003. The Diocese of San Bernardino in California sued the Diocese of Boston for damages resulting from its failure to disclose a priest's history of sexual molestation. The suit was later dropped. Also in 2003, an order of Franciscan Friars sued the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, demanding church officials pay any award from a lawsuit claiming a Franciscan priest molested an altar boy in 1972. A deal was later reached in several Franciscan sex abuse suits.
Attorneys who have taken on the Catholic Church in abuse cases say New Ulm must have been told about Markey and may now be looking for others to share in the blame.
"This is just something that they're doing to keep the microscope off them because if the microscope focuses it's going to see what they did," says Noaker.
Another expert says the legal move appears to be all about money. Facing multiple lawsuits related to abusive priests, New Ulm may be looking for others to share in the cost of any awards to victims if the diocese is found liable.
"They point the finger at someone else…it is unusual. No question about that," says Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk who has been called on as an expert witness in sexual abuse cases across the country.
Sipe says dioceses and religious orders have tried to blame each other in depositions for the treatment of suspected pedophile priests, but fear of multi-million dollar awards may be prompting more direct accusations.
In court documents filed in connection with another Markey case, the Diocese of Clogher says it did not assign Markey to work in Minnesota on behalf of the Diocese of Clogher and the diocese has no record of approving Markey to transfer to any program in Minnesota.
Daniel Haws, a Minnesota attorney who represents the Servants of the Paraclete, says his client has no knowledge of New Ulm's lawsuit and hasn't been served with a complaint.
In response to the John Doe 103 lawsuit, the New Ulm Diocese released a statement:
"The Diocese of New Ulm deeply regrets the long-lasting and devastating effects of sexual misconduct on the part of clergy. Such misconduct requires positive action on our part and we have been strengthening our systems and procedures in order to address this grave issue by following the U.S. bishops' 'Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,' established in June 2002."
The New Ulm Diocese also confirmed that Markey worked at St. Andrew Parish in Granite Falls. Another man recently sued the diocese for abuse he says he suffered at Markey's hands in Granite Falls.
Markey left the New Ulm diocese in June 1982. Attorney Pat Noacker says there is no record of anyone ever telling police about what Markey had done.
The Diocese of Clogher did not respond to a request for comment on the New Ulm lawsuit.