Lawsuits claim sex abuse by priest at Brebeuf, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel schools
By John Tuohy
March 24, 2019
|Three lawsuits against Roman Catholic priest James Grear allege sexual abuse on unnamed plaintiffs.|
Photo by Stephen J. Beard
|Three men accuse priest of sexual assault in Indianapolis and camel in the 1970s and 1980s.|
Photo by Natalia Contreras
Three men have filed lawsuits alleging that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette covered up sexual abuse by a priest at Brebeuf high school in Indianapolis and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in the 1970s and 1980s, and clerical abuse watchdogs fear there could be many more victims.
The accusers, identified in court papers as John Does 1, 2 and 3, were 12 or 13 years old at the time and said they met Father James Grear at Mount Carmel, where he celebrated Mass.
One of the men claims he was violently assaulted in the gym at Mount Carmel during a youth rally. When he told a bishop in his home parish, he was cautioned not to report it and to ask for God’s forgiveness, the lawsuit said. The two other men said Grear while dean of students at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School took them on trips, gave them gifts and molested them in his apartment across the street from the high school on 86th Street.
The lawsuits claim the diocese knew Grear had been abusing children and assigned him to Mount Carmel and Brebeuf anyway without warning parents and others. The lawsuits also point to how often Grear was reassigned.
The plaintiffs' lawyers said they will soon be sending out 2,000 letters to former students who attended Brebeuf while Grear was assigned there to ferret out any other instances of alleged abuse.
"We don't know how extensive this was and we hope this will give us some idea," said Patrick Noaker, a Minnesota lawyer who represents the men. "This could be the tip of the iceberg."
A member and former executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests agreed.
"I believe that the number can rise much higher," David Clohessy told IndyStar. "That is a high number to start. Usually you have a single allegation, and here is a slow drip,drip drip."
Accused priest 'removed from public ministry' in 2001
Two of the lawsuits were filed in Marion County in November and one in Hamilton County in September. They all name Grear, the Diocese of Lafayette and Our Lady of Mount Carmel as defendants. Brebeuf was not named in the suits.
The complaints allege fraud, negligence and failure to warn on the part of church officials. The victims claim they suffered emotional distress, damaged self-esteem, embarrassment, humiliation and loss of earnings. The victims said they have had to seek counseling.
James Duffy of Lafayette, a lawyer for the diocese and Mount Carmel, declined to answer questions about the lawsuits. But in a response to the complaints, Duffy, in a court filing, denied that the diocese knew about any misconduct by Grear and therefore could not have knowingly covered it up.
Brebeuf officials did not respond to requests for comment.
A call by IndyStar to a listed phone number for Grear was not returned.
On March 11, the Hamilton and Marion courts sent a summons to Grear, who is 77 years old and living in a house in Philadelphia, demanding that he respond within 20 days.
Grear was among 12 priests that the Lafayette Diocese named last fall as having “substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor” dating back to 1946. He was ordained on May 30, 1970, and was "removed from public ministry" and "priestly faculties" in October 2001, the diocese said in the announcement.
From October: 12 priests from diocese suspected of sexual misconduct
It was unclear whether any of the men suing the church were victims of the substantiated allegations against Grear that were cited by the diocese.
Greg Otolski, a spokesman for the Indianapolis Archdiocese, said he had no knowledge of the Grear allegations because the priest was in the Lafayette diocese and Brebeuf is a privately run Jesuit school not under the control of the archdiocese.
The Lafayette diocese oversees Catholic Church operations in 24 Indiana counties, including Hamilton but not Marion. Grear's appointment at Brebeuf was considered a special assignment by the Lafayette diocese.
Lawsuit: 'Father Grear’s assignments were suspect'
The lawsuits name the diocese and at least 100 unidentified employees and others affiliated with the dioceses, referred to as John Does 1-100, who allegedly helped cover up the abuse.
Noaker said Indiana law allows the victims to sue long after the statute of limitations has passed if it can be shown that the defendants covered up misconduct until only recently.
Noaker pointed to a pattern of transfers throughout Grear's tenure. Church officials commonly transferred abusive priests rather than address the problem, he said.
“They had favorite places they liked to ship them out to,” Noaker said.
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Among the locations that church hierarchy routinely whisked away accused priests were to inner-city or poor, rural communities, parishes in Alaska and Indian reservations in the Southwest, SNAP's Clohessy said.
“Often these minority communities were chosen because the victims were less apt to tell on the priests, to be believed or to go to police,” Clohessy said.
Grear was incardinated in 1970 in the Lafayette diocese and was moved around frequently almost immediately. From 1972 to 1978, Grear was assigned to Ball State University, St. Francis of Assisi University Parrish in Muncie, Brebeuf, St. John’s Indian School and the Diocese of Phoenix. From 1980 until 1985 he was not listed in the Catholic Directory, which Noaker said is another indication he might have been an abuser. In 1986 he was working somewhere outside the diocese that was not identified. In 1987, Grear was sent to Guam, and in 1990 he was assigned to the South Bronx.
“From the beginning Father Grear’s assignments were suspect,” the lawsuit contends.
John Doe No. 1 said he was abused by Grear in 1982 while visiting Our Lady of Mount Carmel for a youth rally in 1984. He said when he returned home to Monterey, he told Bishop Raymond Gallagher about the abuse during confession at St. Ann’s Church, according to the lawsuit. Gallagher, who is deceased, allegedly told him to “forget about it,” to ask God for forgiveness and to refrain from disclosing the abuse to anyone else.
John Doe No. 2 said he was a student at Mount Carmel grade school when Grear tried to recruit him to Brebeuf. He said Grear “spent lavishly” for “expensive gifts,” according the lawsuit. He also took the boy on trips and to the movies, bowling and restaurants. The accuser’s parents trusted Grear and had him over for dinner, according to the lawsuit.
He said he was taken to Grear’s apartment at least three times for “sexual contact.”
The boy's parents said they reported the abuse to Mount Carmel in 1975 but the church never took action.
John Doe No. 3 was also a student at Mount Carmel. He, too, claims Grear gave him gifts in an attempt to recruit him and took him to his apartment three times for sexual contact.
Tom Doyle, a former priest and expert on clerical abuse, said Grear exhibited "classic grooming behavior."
"You build the kid's trust and the trust of their parents who think it's a great honor that the priest gives so much attention to their child, and the last thing they think is going to happen to them is they are going to be assaulted," he said.
"A lot of times the parents won't believe the children when they tell them what happened."