Five Take Case Charging Ex-Priest with Abuse to State Appeals Court

By Tim Landis
State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL)
December 13, 1995

Five men who say they continue to suffer severe emotional problems more than a dozen years after they were allegedly abused by a Springfield priest have taken their case to a state appeals court.

The five, all now in their late 20s, contend the Rev. Joseph Havey instructed them to ritually abuse him and provided them with pornography, drugs and alcohol in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Havey, who has steadfastly denied the allegations, was a priest in St. Agnes Parish at the time. The boys, then aged 11 to 14, attended the church's parochial school.

However, it was not until November 1993, after a psychiatrist determined they were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, that they filed suit in Sangamon County Circuit Court.

That suit was thrown out early this year by Associate Circuit Judge Stuart Shiffman, who said it failed to comply with a two-year statute of limitations on such cases.

In arguments before the 4th District Appellate Court on Tuesday, an attorney for the five said that until they began counseling in 1993, the men didn't understand the connection between the abuse they suffered as children and their emotional difficulties as adults.

"These boys did not know they had been injured by these events that occurred over a long period of time," said Florence Bain, who said the case should be returned to circuit court for a trial.

The lawsuit contends the men have had drug and alcohol problems, nightmares, run-ins with the law and difficulty relating to women as a result of the abuse.

State law normally requires such claims made by those 18 and older to be filed within two years after the abuse is discovered. Bain said there are exceptions for victims who failed to "make the connection" between the abuse and their behavioral problems until years later.

A Chicago attorney representing the Springfield Catholic Diocese, which also was named as a defendant in the original lawsuit, said allowing such exemptions would remove virtually any limits on sexual abuse claims, no matter how many years had passed.

"They cannot take a wait-and-see approach. There has to be an objective, reasonable standard," said Kevin T. Martin.

Martin said there was plenty of evidence well before their 18th birthday that the men had serious emotional and substance abuse problems. Early on, he added, they had displayed an "extreme negative" attitude toward Havey.

"These weren't feelings that popped into their head when they were 18," Martin said.

Reviving the lawsuit would open the door to other such claims, even decades after the fact, Martin said.

Havey has the left the priesthood. His attorney, Bruce Locher, said he has moved out of central Illinois.

An decision from the three-member appellate court is not expected for several weeks.


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