Suit Says Priest Abused Girl for Six Years

July 20, 2016

A girl and her family are suing a Catholic priest and his church supervisors, charging that Fr. Stephen Tarleton Dougherty repeatedly abused her for six years, starting when she was seven, from 2005-2011. We applaud her for her courage and hope her bravery will inspire others who are suffering to come forward.


Catholic officials should yank Fr. Dougherty’s passport, so he can’t flee overseas. They should use pulpit announcements, church bulletins and parish websites, across the Corpus Christi diocese, to aggressively seek out other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers and beg them to call police. But they won’t. They’ll passively sit back and do the bare minimum.

It’s important to remember that accused child molesting clerics often get top notch, church-funded defense lawyers who exploit every possible legal loophole and technicality to evade responsibility for their heinous crimes. Many times, they succeed in their well-financed, shrewd legal maneuvers and go free or get short sentences. And more kids are assaulted.

We hope that doesn’t happen here. One way to prevent it: every person with information or suspicions about Fr. Dougherty must pick up the phone now and call law enforcement.

This strong, brave young woman is now 18 years old. The burden of protecting other kids from this predator should not rest solely on her shoulders. We beg parents, parishioners and the public: Please, if you’ve seen, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes or cover ups, protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.

Fr. Dougherty worked in Robstown, Mathis and Corpus Christi. He belongs to a Catholic religious order known as SOLT – the Society of our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. It’s headed by Fr. Peter Marsalek. The Corpus Christi Diocese, which is also a defendant in the suit, is headed by Bishop Michael Mulvey.

Fr. Dougherty was indicted in June. He was ordained in 2003, and then-Bishop Edward Carmody initially let him work in the Corpus Christi area.

(The victim, who lives in Bee County, is represented by Dallas attorney Tahira Khan Merritt (214.503.7300,

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell,, Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell,








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