Dallas Jesuit Prep sued over alleged sex abuse by priest on list of ‘credibly accused’
By David Tarrant
Dallas Morning News
March 19, 2019
| Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas|
Photo by Tom Fox
|A Jesuit yearbook photo of Donald Dickerson, who taught at the school in Dallas and was named on a list of Catholic clergy credibly accused of sexually abusing minors |
Three months after members of the Dallas Jesuit community were named on a list of clergy “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of a minor, a lawsuit has been filed by a former student at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas.
The suit claims Donald Dickerson, a former Jesuit priest, sexually assaulted the student in the late 1970s. Dickerson was one of 11 men who previously worked at Jesuit Dallas included on a list released by the Jesuits in December of clergy members “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of a minor.
Dickerson was removed from the Jesuit order in 1986 and died in 2018.
The plaintiff in the case -- listed in the suit only as John Doe -- is seeking damages in excess of $1 million, said his attorney, Hal Browne, who filed the suit Monday in Dallas County District Court.
Jesuit Dallas and the Catholic Society of Religious and Literary Education, within the Jesuits U.S. Central and Southern Province, are named as defendants in the suit. The school is located within the Central and Southern Province of the Jesuits.
Calls and emails to Jesuit Dallas were not immediately returned. A spokesman for the province, Therese Myerhoff, said she could not comment on the lawsuit until finding out more information.
The 56-year-old plaintiff, who lives in Texas, declined to discuss the case, Browne said.
“Our client’s claims are absolutely credible,” Browne said Tuesday.
Dickerson served at the Dallas school in the late 1970s and early 1980s, according to records. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff “was a minor at all times during the emotional and sexual abuse he was subjected to by Donald Dickerson.”
During his freshman year at Dallas Jesuit in 1978, the plaintiff became interested in becoming a priest. At the time, Dickerson was working at Dallas Jesuit as a scholastic, one of the stages before a young Jesuit candidate takes his final vows to become a priest.
The plaintiff expressed interest in becoming a priest and accompanied Dickerson on a visit to Dickerson’s parents’ home in Alabama, according to the lawsuit.
“Dickerson provided John Doe, a minor, with a significant amount of alcohol and then took John Doe to a back bedroom, where he raped him while John Doe was under the influence of the alcohol Dickerson provided him,” the lawsuit states.
The alleged assault took place in the summer after the plaintiff’s freshman year. The plaintiff did not return to Jesuit because his family moved, Browne said.
The lawsuit alleges that the Jesuits “knew or should have known that Dickerson likely would abuse plaintiff given the opportunity.”
Lawsuits filed in 2007 and 2010 claimed Dickerson assaulted a minor boy in New Orleans in 1974 and another boy in Shreveport in the early 1980s. Both lawsuits were settled, according to news reports.
The lawsuit claims the plaintiff has sustained medical and counseling expenses "and will probably incur more counseling and medical expenses in the future."
This lawsuit comes as the Catholic Church worldwide continues to deal with its sex abuse crisis and allegations of cover-ups. As part of an effort toward more transparency, many dioceses and religious orders have published similar lists of "credibly accused" priests.
In September, the Dallas Catholic Diocese announced it had hired a team of former law enforcement investigators to comb through its files of clergy members. On Jan. 31, the diocese released its list of 31 clergy members who have been “credibly accused” since 1950 of sexual abuse of a minor.
The release came months after allegations surfaced in August against a priest at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Oak Cliff.
Of the 11 clergy members named in the December list who worked at Jesuit Dallas, eight are now dead. And many on the list had already been accused publicly.
"We reported to the community in December that Don Dickerson was on a list released by the Jesuits' Central and Southern Province against whom there were credible allegations of abuse of a minor," said Michael Earsing, Jesuit Dallas president, in a written statement Tuesday.
"We continue to ask our community to provide compassion and support for all victims of sexual misconduct and abuse," Earsing said. "I don't believe it would be appropriate to discuss the specifics of this lawsuit."
The 34-acre Jesuit high school campus is near the intersection of Interstate 635 and the Dallas North Tollway.