Two More Suits Are Filed against Priest
Women Say They Were Abused While Students at Bishop Dubourg High
By Tim Bryant
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
June 27, 2003
Two women filed suits Thursday claiming they were sexually abused as teenagers by the same Roman Catholic priest accused in a molesting-related wrongful death suit about two weeks ago.
Both cases accuse the Rev. Michael McGrath, 57, of Richmond Heights. He was removed from the active priesthood in 1997 after allegations of improper contact with minors.
The women's complaints said they were victimized more than a decade ago at Bishop DuBourg High School in St. Louis, where McGrath was their religion teacher.
One of their lawyers said the abuse happened on a school trip in 1992, when one of the women was 16 and the other 15. McGrath started to touch sexual parts of one of the girls as she slept in a van, said the lawyer, Susan Carlson.
McGrath similarly but separately abused the other girl on the same trip, said Carlson. She said both plaintiffs, now in their mid-20s and identified in the suits as Jane Doe, resisted. They were not present for the announcement Thursday.
The suits seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
In a statement read to reporters, the father of one of the women said he and his wife were outraged that their child had not been better protected by the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which with McGrath was also named as a defendant.
"I hope that no families would have to go through this treatment in the future," he said in a written statement read by Allen Klump.
Klump is the plaintiff in a wrongful death suit filed this month against McGrath and the archdiocese. It claims that one of Klump's sons, Christopher Klump, 30, committed suicide March 2 as a result of emotional anguish caused by childhood sexual abuse by McGrath.
An effort to reach McGrath on Thursday was unsuccessful. A spokeswoman for the archdiocese had no immediate comment on the suits, which were filed in St. Louis Circuit Court.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests made the suits public at a news conference outside Bishop DuBourg. David Clohessy, head of SNAP in St. Louis, said he wanted school officials, alumni and students' parents to contact former students and urge them to call authorities with information about McGrath.
Clohessy told archdiocesan spokeswoman Terry Edelmann, who attended the event, that Archbishop Justin Rigali should be more forthcoming over complaints of priestly abuse.
Edelmann replied that Rigali "has been steadfast" in urging abuse victims to call authorities. She said the church was "moving forward" in dealing with instances of abuse and "is doing all it can."
Also on Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot retroactively erase statutes of limitations. The 5-4 ruling in a California case is seen as a defeat for prosecutors trying to pursue priests accused of long-ago sex abuse.
A 72-year-old man accused of molesting his daughters when they were children had challenged the 1994 California law.
Clohessy said the ruling "is a huge setback to anybody who wants to protect kids."
Carlson said the ruling's effect on Missouri cases was unclear.
Carol Mateus, a member of the SNAP chapter in San Francisco who joined Clohessy on Thursday, said abuse victims were often so traumatized that many years pass before they can tell their stories.
"It's very hard to come forward," Mateus said.
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