Former Lafayette priest named in abuse lawsuit

By Ron Wilkins
Lafayette Journal and Courier
July 28, 2015

St. Ann’s steeple can be seen from the downtown bridges. It sits at Wabash and Smith streets and is one of the churches an admitted pedophile priest served before retiring in the 1990s.

Two victims of sexual abuse by priests filed civil lawsuits Tuesday in St. Paul, Minnesota, accusing a former Lafayette native and priest of violating them at a Crosier school in Onamia, Minnesota.

The lawsuit names the Crosier Fathers and Brothers as its defendants. But in each lawsuit, Father Gerald Funcheon, originally from Lafayette, is named as one of the priests who violated both men when they were teenagers.

Funcheon, 77, has confessed to sexually abusing boys in his charge for more than 30 years in the Crosier and Roman Catholic priesthood, said Jeff Anderson, the Minnesota attorney who represents the two latest victims.

In response to Tuesday’s filing, the Crosiers released a prepared statement from Prior Provincial Thomas Enneking.

“The Crosiers do not tolerate any forms of sexual misconduct and are deeply sorry for any pain caused by a Crosier,” Enneking said in the written statement. “We have stringent policies and actions of accountability in place to prevent future abuse.”

But the lawsuits allege those policies and accountability should have been there in the late 1970s and 1980s when the two boys were molested while at the private school.

The lawsuits asserts that the Crosiers knew or should have known about the illicit and illegal behavior of Funcheon and others and should have taken steps to protect its students and children in their care.

The lawsuit asks for a judgment in excess of $50,000, plus costs, attorneys’ fees, interest and other relief the court deems just and equitable.

The plaintiffs, now in their 40s and 50s, are two of many former victims who have stepped forward to file civil lawsuits against their abusers since Minnesota adopted its Child Victim Act. The law, approved in 2013, essentially ends the statute of limitations for victims to file civil lawsuits, Anderson said. His law firm is spearheading the effort to hold the church and religious organizations accountable for the abuse, Anderson said. So far, Anderson’s firm has used the law to file 200 lawsuits against the St. Paul Diocese.

Last November, Anderson’s firm filed a civil lawsuit to force the Crosiers to open its records on possible sexual abuse by priests and submit to judicial reviews.

Anderson said the law opened the potential for many victims to step out of the shadows and sue their abuser. It forced the St. Paul Diocese to file for bankruptcy to protect its assets.

The St. Paul Diocese, however, is not named in the lawsuits filed Tuesday.

In the suit, both men — called Doe 51 and Doe 56 — accuse Funcheon of molesting them.

Doe 51 also accused Brother Gabriel Guerrero and Brother Roman Fleischhacker of abusing him between 1979 and 1981 when he was 15 and 17 years old.

Guerrero was removed from work with minors in 1990 and is retired and living under a safety plan, the Crosiers said Tuesday.

Fleischhacker died in September 2013, and the order received notice of a claim against him in April 2015, the Crosiers said.

Doe 56 also accused Brother Wendell Mohs and Father Roger Vaughn of sexually abusing him between 1979 and 1980 when he was 14 and 15 years old.

Mohs was removed from work with minors, and he left the Crosier Order in 1982, the Crosiers said.

Vaughn was removed from public ministry in 2000, and shortly after that, he left the Crosier Order, according to the organization.

Funcheon’s alleged abuse goes back to his work at a Catholic Youth Organization Camp in Fort Wayne in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Anderson said, explaining he has taken dispositions from the priest who still has not been defrocked, although he is not allowed to minister.

Funcheon also worked in 1965 at Camp Wawasee in northern Indiana, where Anderson said Funcheon abused several children. Additionally, Funcheon was a teacher and athletic director for Our Lady of the Lake Seminary in Syracuse between 1966 and 1969.

During his days as a Purdue University graduate student in 1969 and 1970, Funcheon provided weekend pastoral assistance at the university, Anderson said.

After decades away from Indiana, Funcheon returned to Lafayette at the end of his career.

He worked at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Lafayette and taught at Central Catholic High School in Lafayette in 1986 and 1987, according to previously published Journal & Courier stories.

He held several other posts in the area, including as a priest at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Kokomo in 1988 and 1989, St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Kokomo from 1989 to 1991, and St. Mary Catholic Church in Dunnington in 1991 and 1992.

The Lafayette Diocese removed him from ministry in 1992 after learning of his sexual abuse of boys. He currently lives at St. John Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri, a mental health treatment facility for clergy members. The Lafayette Diocese pays for Funcheon’s treatment, room and board, Anderson said.

When asked last fall about the support Funcheon continues to receive from the diocese, communications director Kevin Cullen said he did not know why his organization was footing the bill.

The Journal & Courier called the Vianney Renewal Center to request Funcheon call for comment. He did not return the call.



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