Priest Is Accused of Abuse in 5 More Suits
Archdiocese Is Alleged to Have Covered up His Actions
By Jeremy Kohler
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
July 30, 2003
Five lawsuits filed Tuesday in St. Louis bring to a dozen the number alleging Catholic priest Michael McGrath molested children and that the Archdiocese of St. Louis covered it up.
Like many of the earlier suits, each one filed Tuesday alleges McGrath fondled the children while letting them drive his van during day trips and weekend outings he organized for young teens throughout the 1980s.
After the suits were announced, a group representing victims of sexual abuse by clergy leafleted McGrath's neighborhood in Richmond Heights to warn his neighbors of the suits.
McGrath could not be reached Tuesday. He has previously declined to comment through his attorney.
Each of the five new plaintiffs was identified in court filings as "John Doe" to protect his identity; none of them attended a news conference convened by their lawyer outside the archdiocese offices on Lindell Boulevard on Tuesday.
Four accusers allege McGrath abused them between 1979 and 1981 while the priest was an assistant at St. Patrick's in Wentzville. The fifth alleges abuse that occurred between 1984 and 1985 while McGrath was an assistant at St. Simon the Apostle in south St. Louis County.
"He took them driving and he sexually molested them," said Patrick Noaker, of St. Paul, Minn., one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.
The suits also allege the archdiocese shuttled McGrath from parish to parish to hide his predatory ways, though none of the plaintiffs reported their abuse until this year.
The archdiocese denies that accusations of sexual abuse had anything to do with McGrath's assignments. In a recent interview, Monsignor Richard Stika, the St. Louis Archdiocese's vicar general, said until recent weeks just one person -- in 1993 -- had ever accused McGrath of sexual abuse.
That man told the archdiocese that McGrath fondled him once in the 1973-74 school year while McGrath was still a seminarian, Stika said.
Stika said McGrath was then put through psychological testing and was placed on medical leave for a year while he received psychological treatment. During that time he got a master of arts in theology from St. Louis University.
At the end of the treatment, medical experts on sexual abuse told the archdiocese that McGrath "was safe to work with young people," said Stika.
In fall 1995, McGrath returned to DuBourg High School as a teacher. The following year, he was assigned to live at St. Stephen Protomartyr near Carondelet Park in St. Louis.
McGrath was placed on administrative leave in 1997 and has since worked as a bus driver for Metro and Greyhound.
McGrath's neighbors had a mix of opinions about the leaflets passed out Tuesday by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
"People can accuse you of anything, but it's up to the courts to decide," said Joe Sherrell, 41, as he tilled soil at his house across from McGrath. "If (McGrath) can prove them wrong, he should sue for defamation of character."
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