Lawyer: Statute of Limitations Blocks Sex Abuse Lawsuit

Associated Press State & Local Wire
August 9, 2002

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The lawyer representing the Diocese of St. Cloud and St. Anthony's Church in a clergy sex abuse lawsuit said the statute of limitations prevents the lawsuit from proceeding.

The lawsuit was filed in July by a former student at St. Anthony's in St. Cloud who accused his former priest of sexually assaulting him more than 35 years ago.

The church and diocese filed an answer to the lawsuit this week in Stearns County District Court. In it, they claim Wayne Eller waited too long to file the claims against the diocese, St. Anthony's Church and the Rev. James Thoennes.

The statute of limitations provides a time limit for lawsuits after the abuse occurred or was remembered. Attorney Jeffrey Anderson argued that because Eller repressed the memory of the abuse for years, there was still time to file the lawsuit.

In its response, the diocese argued that Eller knew about the abuse years ago when he complained to his grandmother. In an interview with the St. Cloud Times the day the lawsuit was filed, Eller acknowledged telling his grandmother about the abuse. He said she sternly disciplined him, and he then buried the memory.

Eller's lawsuit accused Thoennes of molesting him in the mid-1960s at a Sauk Centre home where Thoennes' parents lived.

Thoennes is one of three diocesan priests who have received letters from Bishop John Kinney informing them that they can no longer celebrate Mass publicly, wear clerical garb or publicly present themselves as priests.


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