2 sue St. Cloud diocese, parishes

By David Unze
St. Cloud Times
August 25, 2015

Attorney Jeffrey Anderson holds a photograph of deceased priest Donald Rieder while standing with Susan Fuchs-Hoeschen during a press conference Tuesday on the steps of the Stearns County Courthouse.
Photo by Dave Schwarz

Two women who say they were sexually abused by a now-deceased St. Cloud Diocese priest sued the diocese and two parishes where they say the abuse happened on Tuesday.

The women, who were not named, accuse Donald Rieder of sexually abusing them at parishes in Randall and Kimball in the 1960s when the girls where between the ages of 11 and 15. The lawsuits allege negligence and accuse the diocese of common law nuisance, a legal claim that has led to the release of dozens of priest personnel files in other religious orders.

And that's the intent of the negligence claim in the lawsuits filed Tuesday in Stearns County District Court.

"The reality is that these suits are necessary to disgorge the truth about Rieder's history and all of the other known offenders," said Jeffrey Anderson, the attorney representing the women.

The diocese had not had an opportunity to review the complaints and cannot comment on the specifics, according to a statement it released.

In January 2014, Bishop Donald Kettler included Rieder on a list released to the public of 33 clergy likely involved in the sexual abuse of minors in the past, the statement read. That was eight months after Rieder had died.

"When an allegation against Rieder came forward in 2002, Bishop John Kinney removed Rieder from all public ministry," according to the statement.

Kinney also was going to host listening sessions in Randall, but they were canceled because of inclement weather.

The women who filed suit had intended to speak at a press conference Tuesday on the steps of the Stearns County Courthouse but didn't feel it was safe to come forward and be identified.

Susan Fuchs-Hoeschen did speak Tuesday and recounted how Rieder abused her in 1973 when she was a parishioner at St. Louis Church in Paynesville.

She described herself as not only a victim of Rieder but also a greater victim of the diocese. She came forward in the early 1990s to report the 1973 abuse and was told by the diocese that Rieder would be removed from service, she said.

By then, Rieder had moved from Paynesville to Little Falls and Sobieski and served at St. John Cantius from 1985-1995.

Fuchs-Hoeschen, who is a trauma therapist who works primarily with children, said she was at the press conference Tuesday to support the women who filed suit.

"I want to tell you that it is safe, we are coming out and we will be heard," she said.

Rieder served at St. James Church in Randall from 1958-1964 and St. Anne's Church in Kimball from 1964-1969. Mothers of the victims told the diocese about Rieder's abuse of the girls at the time at those parishes, and the diocese merely moved Rieder to another parish, Anderson said.

Rieder pleaded guilty in 2003 to three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and admitted abusing a young girl in the early 1990s while he was pastor at St. John Cantius Church.

He admitted abusing three other parishioners but wasn't charged with any crimes. Rieder died in May 2013.

The diocese plans to host listening sessions for the parish communities where Rieder served, according to its statement Tuesday.

Anderson was critical of Kettler for hosting recent listening sessions without doing anything substantially different than what has been done by previous bishops. Anderson called the diocese's actions as "a saga of concealment."

"I extoll the virtue of listening but I don't extoll listening when there is no learning," Anderson said.



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