Priest Named in Second Sex Suit

By Pat Schneider
Capital Times
April 12, 1994

A former Catholic priest here faces a second allegation that he sexually assaulted a minor boy a decade ago.

A lawsuit filed Monday in Dane County Circuit Court alleges that Rev. Michael Trainor molested "J.W." in 1982, when Trainor was a priest at St. Thomas Aquinas parish, 602 Everglade Dr., on the west side.

The suit was filed under a pseudonym for the alleged victim, who still lives in Madison, by Milwaukee attorney Robert Elliott.

The lawsuit also names the Madison Catholic Diocese, several diocesan officials and St. Thomas Aquinas Church.

Trainor, the diocese and the parish also are defendants in a lawsuit filed by another unnamed man in February in Dane County.

That man, now living in Eau Claire, also claims he was sexually assaulted by Trainor in 1982.

Rev. Paul Swain, vice chancellor for the Diocese of Madison, declined Monday to comment on the allegations against Trainor.

But the diocese, in an initial response to the February suit, denied all allegations.

Trainor left Madison in 1982 and his current whereabouts are unknown.

The two cases filed by Elliott are the first public accusations of sexual assault by a Madison priest against minors.

Several other cases have involved women, who said priests misused their authority to lure them into sexual relationships.

Suing is the only way to get the Catholic church to accept its responsibility for errant priests, said Elliott.

"These institutions have no interest in dealing with these problems until you put a gun to their heads - and that's by filing a lawsuit," Elliott said at a gathering of sexual abuse survivors at a local seminar on legal rights in February.

Critical in both suits against Trainor is the claim that the Madison diocese knew or should have known of Trainor's pedophiliac compulsion, and should have removed him.

That claim potentially opens up the deep pockets of the diocese for punitive damages - awards in excess of actual costs to the victims that could be available if it is proven the diocese willfully ignored its obligations.

Elliott has said St. Thomas Aquinas Church officials received complaints about Trainor's conduct with boys before 1982. The lawsuit filed this week said the church had reason to know about the attacks, and failed to prevent or report them.

The lawsuit filed Monday also claims that the diocese, after it learned of Trainor's assaults on the boy, failed to provide proper treatment for the boy's mental and emotional problems.

Trainor abused his authority and influence as a priest to "coerce, cajole, bribe and emotionally overpower" the boy, the lawsuit alleges.

Trainor relied on the threat of holy condemnation to prevent the boy from reporting the assaults, according to the lawsuit.

The psychological distress caused by the assaults - and the coping methods subsequently developed by the boy - made him unable to perceive the existence, nature or cause of his injuries until this year, the lawsuit says.


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