Lawsuit Filed against Brophy Prep and Phoenix Diocese Claims Sex Abuse by Priest
By Spencer Blake
September 23, 2020
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - There is yet another allegation of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest in Phoenix. On Monday, a lawsuit filed in Maricopa County is going after both Brophy College Preparatory and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix for allowing a priest to abuse a student in the 1980s sexually.
From 1980 to 1987, Father James Sinnerud worked as a teacher and a coach at Brophy. The lawsuit claims he left the plaintiff "John RK Doe" with “emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, humiliation, anger, rage, frustration, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, loss of love and affection, sexual dysfunction, past and future medical expenses for psychological treatment, therapy, and counseling.”
“For [those who haven’t suffered abuse], that’s many years ago. But for the adult survivor, this is still an everyday part of their life,” said Robert Pastor, the plaintiff’s attorney.
In 2018, Jesuits West released a list of Jesuit priests who had been credibly accused of sex abuse dating back 60 years. Eight of those priests had ties to Brophy; six of those had already died. Sinnerud, however, is still living in Nebraska, as far as Pastor knows. Sinnerud had been working at another Catholic school, Creighton Preparatory, in Omaha. Creighton recently discovered allegations of abuse against him, which they said happened before he arrived in Omaha. Sinnerud’s days at Brophy ended in 1987, and from there, he immediately went to Creighton. This week’s lawsuit lists Brophy and the Diocese of Phoenix as entities that tried to cover up Sinnerud’s behavior.
“The Diocese of Phoenix and I think the Catholic Church generally, although they verbally pledge to be transparent and to be truthful, are still dealing in secrecy,” Pastor said.
The attorney is himself a 1993 Brophy graduate who still actively practices Catholicism. He feels he’s following what he learned at the school – to be a man in the service of others – by representing abuse victims.
“It’s almost as if they expect, ‘Well, we’re not going to say anything until we have a survivor come forward,’” Pastor said.
Brophy released the following statement regarding the lawsuit:
Brophy College Preparatory is profoundly saddened to acknowledge that on September 22, 2020, we were informed via lawsuit of allegations of abuse against Fr. James A. Sinnerud, SJ. Fr. Sinnerud was employed as a teacher at Brophy four decades ago – from 1980-1987. He has not been part of our faculty since this time. In December 2018, Brophy and the Jesuits West Province publicly addressed credible accusations against eight priests who had been assigned to Brophy during a 60-year period, beginning in the 1950’s. We were unaware of any credible accusations against Fr. Sinnerud at that time. We encourage anyone who may have information on this matter, or who has suffered abuse, to come forward by contacting Adria Renke, president of Brophy College Preparatory, at email@example.com or at 602-264-5291, ext. 6777. We grieve deeply for the suffering of all victims of clerical abuse and will participate fully and transparently in efforts to advance healing and justice.
The lawsuit counters that Brophy should have known Sinnerud “was not fit to work as a priest” before he was even hired at the Phoenix school.
“The studies and the statistics tell me that, yeah, there are likely to be more victims, and there are likely to be priests who have not been identified,” Pastor said.
Arizona’s Family also got a statement from the diocese:
The Diocese of Phoenix is aware of the lawsuit filed in connection to Father James Sinnerud, a Jesuit priest who taught at Brophy College Preparatory in the 1980s. Because this is a pending litigation matter, we are not able to comment further. The Diocese of Phoenix encourages anyone who has been a victim or who may have information about abuse to call a local law enforcement agency. We pray for all those who have been harmed by childhood abuse and remain vigilant to protect the dignity of every person. For additional information about support services for those who have been abused, please contact the Office of Child and Youth Protection at (602) 354-2396 or at dphx.org/youth-protection.
Arizona passed a law last summer that extended the age limit for abuse victims to bring their claims forward in court, but that extension only lasts until the end of this year.