Another Abuse Lawsuit Filed against Former KC Priest

By Kevin Murphy
Kansas City Star
September 19, 2003

A Massachusetts man filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing a former priest, who was also his uncle, of sexually abusing him while he was a boy in Kansas City.

Christopher Biersmith, 38, alleges that Hugh F. Monahan raped and sodomized him beginning at age 11 and that the abuse continued for five years. Biersmith's family went to St. Peter's Church in Kansas City.

Two other sexual abuse lawsuits were filed earlier this month against Monahan, who served at nine parishes in the Kansas City area in a 20-year period ending in 1989.

The lawsuit lists as co-defendants the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop Raymond Boland and Vicar General the Rev. Patrick Rush, contending they concealed the abuse and then later refused to pay for Biersmith's counseling.

Monahan, who the diocese said left Kansas City and the priesthood in 1989, could not be reached for comment. Records indicate he lives in Puerto Rico, but no phone number was available.

In a prepared statement Thursday, Rush said that two brothers contacted the diocese in 1999 about their maternal uncle, Monahan, abusing them in the 1970s during a period when their parents were divorcing.

"Pursuant to its policy, the diocese offered and the brothers accepted, psychological counseling," Rush said. "The diocese informed both men that they were free to share their stories with criminal authorities or the media."

Rush did not respond to Biersmith's allegation that the diocese agreed to provide him a therapist in 1999 but then refused to pay after 12 sessions. Biersmith accused the diocese of "fraudulent misrepresentations."

Rush said the brothers began spending more time with Monahan at the request of their mother - Monahan's sister - during the divorce period. But Biersmith's lawyer, Rebecca Randles, said the abuse began two or more years before the divorce. The lawsuit does not identify Biersmith's parents.

"They had no inkling," Biersmith said. "If they did, they would have put an immediate stop to it."

The lawsuit said Monahan made sexual contact a condition upon which he would provide care and spiritual guidance.

"Defendant Monahan silences the children he abused by making them live in secret shame, fear and degradation while ministering to them psychologically, emotionally and spiritually," the lawsuit said.

Last week Randles filed two lawsuits against Monahan. One was filed by Kenneth Landes, 36, who now lives in San Diego, and the other by an anonymous plaintiff, identified only as DLB. Similar to the previous two lawsuits, the Biersmith lawsuit seeks a jury trial to determine damages as yet unspecified. Rush said Monahan was ordained as a priest in 1968 and served at various levels in nine different parishes. He left the priesthood in 1989 and received no financial support after he left, Rush said. Rush said the diocese received its first allegations of sexual misconduct involving Monahan in November 1990, when the parents of Landes complained. Rush said the diocese tried to question Monahan about the allegations after he left Kansas City but could not find him.

But Randles said the diocese knew about Monahan's alleged abuses while he was still a priest in the diocese but merely transferred him from parish to parish.

The diocese adopted a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual misconduct in 1993 and has set up an independent board to review allegations and establish counseling.

In February the diocese reported there had been sexual abuse allegations against 19 priests, resulting in $836,331 in settlements, legal fees and counseling costs for victims and priests. In an unrelated case, the diocese reported in its newspaper The Catholic Key last week that it made a $10,000 settlement with a California man. Thomas Dorrell, 63, filed a lawsuit alleging abuse by Father Sylvester Hoppe in the 1950s. Hoppe, who denied the allegations, died last November.


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