Lawsuit Accuses Priest of Abuse
Man's Charges Date to 1970s at St. Odilia

By Todd Nelson
Saint Paul Pioneer Press [Minnesota]
September 20, 2003

An unnamed California man filed a lawsuit Friday accusing a Roman Catholic priest of sexually abusing him three decades ago at St. Odilia Catholic Church in Shoreview.

The man, identified only as John Doe J.R. in the suit filed in Ramsey County District Court, accuses the Rev. Gerald Funcheon of abusing him between 1971 and 1974.

At the time, the plaintiff was an 11-year-old sixth-grader and Funcheon was his teacher for religion, sexual education and physical education classes at St. Odilia Catholic School, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit accuses the priest of "using his position of authority, trust, reverence and control" to engage repeatedly in "unpermitted, harmful and offensive sexual contact" with the student on more than 150 occasions.

The suit seeks unspecified damages on eight alleged counts, including sexual battery, clergy malpractice, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The man who brought the suit claims he has suffered severe emotional distress, embarrassment and loss of self-esteem.

Other defendants in the suit are St. Odilia Catholic School, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and the Crosier Fathers and Brothers, an order founded 800 years ago in Belgium that has served the large St. Odilia parish since the early 1960s. William Tipping, a Minneapolis lawyer representing the Crosiers, declined to comment before speaking with his clients. Lawyers for the other defendants and the California man who brought the suit could not be reached.

The suit describes the plaintiff as a member of a devout Roman Catholic family who was baptized, confirmed and served as an altar boy. He "came to know, admire, trust, revere and respect Father Funcheon as a person of great influence and persuasion as a holy man and authority figure," according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges other personnel the Crosiers provided to the church and school had ample opportunity to observe alleged "picture taking, physical contact and intimate socializing" between Funcheon and the plaintiff and other boys and could or should have observed the alleged sexual abuse. The archdiocese, the suit alleges, knew or should have known of the alleged sexual abuse.

The alleged abuse included fondling and sexual acts that took place in the church sacristy, Funcheon's school office, where he allegedly kept a popcorn maker, bean bags and television for "entertaining boys privately," and a van. Funcheon allegedly gave the student "gifts of religious icons and clothing bearing the school logo as rewards for my compliance with his sexual demands," according to the suit.

In October, the Roman Catholic order removed eight members from public ministry as a result of sexual abuse of minors after a third-party investigation into such allegations. The Crosiers then announced a stronger sexual misconduct policy that mandates notification of civil authorities if abuse of a child or vulnerable adult is suspected.


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