Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas church cited in child sex-abuse suit

By Ron Wood
Arkansas Democrat
August 23, 2019

Diocese of Little Rock.

An unidentified person has sued the Diocese of Little Rock and St. Joseph Catholic Church in Tontitown, claiming they were negligent for allowing a priest to sexually abuse him.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of "John Doe 201" and says the priest involved was Joseph Correnti, who committed suicide in 2002.

The Washington County Circuit Court lawsuit claims "Doe 201" was sexually battered by Correnti when "Doe" was 14 to 15 years old. The suit says Correnti served at St. Joseph from 1995 to 2002.

"Doe 201" discovered the effects within the past three years of the sexual abuse perpetrated by Correnti, according to the lawsuit.

Rick Woods filed the lawsuit, which contends that there are at least five known victims of Correnti's sexual abuse.

The diocese knew, or should have known, of Correnti's "sexual misconduct, impulses, and behavior," according to the lawsuit. But, it allowed Correnti to have unlimited contact with children, including "Doe 201," the suit claims.

"Defendants had the duty to protect the moral purity of plaintiff and other Roman Catholic children within the Diocese of Little Rock and at St. Joseph's Catholic Church," according to the lawsuit. "Defendants breached their duties by exposing plaintiff to a known pedophile."

The church and diocese failed to follow policies and procedures designed to prevent child sex abuse or failed to implement sufficient policies, and didn't warn parents there was a risk of child sex abuse, according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges that the church failed to report Correnti's actions to police.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for severe and permanent psychological, emotional and physical injuries, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, humiliation and loss of enjoyment of life.

"Doe 201" also continues to incur expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy, and counseling, and cannot lead a normal life, according to the lawsuit.

Correnti committed suicide April 3, 2002, according to Fayetteville police and the Washington County coroner.

He left a note alluding to the sexual misconduct scandal within the Catholic Church at the time.

"Especially in circumstances in the church today, I am sure that some may feel this has a connection, but it rather has to do with my long term depression," Correnti wrote.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Little Rock said in the days after Correnti's death, to his knowledge, there had never been a complaint of sexual misconduct linked to Correnti. But, Bishop Anthony Taylor included Correnti on a list of 12 priests against whom credible allegations had been received. The listing, published in September 2018, said Correnti had five known victims.

"Despite our best efforts to ensure that this information is accurate and complete, we know that this list may include errors or be incomplete," the bishop wrote. "It was compiled through an initial preliminary internal review of personnel files of clergy whom we already knew or whom we suspected had been credibly accused of child sexual abuse."

Taylor noted that an allegation being determined or considered as credible isn't the equivalent of a finding of guilt by a jury or judge in a legal proceeding nor does it mean the allegation is able to be proved.

In June, the diocese settled sex abuse claims made by five men against a different priest for $790,000. The men claimed that they were abused in the 1970s while they were teens at Holy Souls school in Little Rock.


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