Ex-Priest Accused of More Abuses

By Kevin Murphy
Kansas City Star
November 5, 2003

Two Lee's Summit men and their parents filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing a former priest of sexually abusing the men as boys and causing family "estrangement" and pain.

The lawsuit against Hugh F. Monahan, who served eight Roman Catholic parishes in the Kansas City area between 1969 and 1989, is unusual among thousands of sexual-abuse lawsuits against priests in that parents are seeking damages, lawyers said.

The family, anonymous in the lawsuit, alleges Monahan began abusing the brothers in 1976 when they were altar boys at Sacred Heart parish in Warrensburg, Mo. Abuse continued until 1981 at parishes in Blue Springs, they allege.

In the lawsuit, the family says it was "decimated from the inside" by Monahan's abuses. They say he turned the boys against their parents, undermined parental authority and caused lasting family damage.

"He poisoned my relationship with my children, and he poisoned my relationship with my spouse," the mother of the family said in a statement released with the lawsuit.

Named as co-defendants in the lawsuit are the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop Raymond J. Boland and Vicar General Patrick Rush, who is the diocese contact and spokesman on sexual-abuse allegations.

In a prepared statement Tuesday, Rush said the diocese was unaware of any sexual-abuse allegations against Monahan until 17 months after he left the priesthood and Kansas City in 1989.

Rush said the diocese was first aware of the family's concerns about Monahan in May 2002 when one of the brothers called. Both brothers met with diocese officials but declined counseling, though their mother accepted, he said.

The lawsuit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court, is the fourth against Monahan in two months alleging sexual abuse of minors.

Monahan left the priesthood in 1989 and lived in suburban San Juan, Puerto Rico, as of last June. But no phone number for Monahan is listed, and last week a reporter found no one residing at a home where records show he lived.

The lawsuit faults the diocese for allowing Monahan to keep working as a priest and in the company of minors when it should have known about his sexual improprieties.

Rebecca Randles, the family's lawyer, said in a news conference that she will produce witnesses, including priests, who observed Monahan's abuses. She said she had reason to believe the diocese was aware of Monahan's behavior.

The lawsuit said Monahan received counseling from the diocese for "his proclivities to abuse children during the time the plaintiffs were his victims."

Monahan abused the boys during youth-group functions and at the rectory, the lawsuit alleges. He took the boys on lake trips, gave them alcohol, had sex with them and encouraged them to have sex with other youngsters, it states.

"Defendant Monahan falsely represented to the young boys that he was providing spiritual counseling, comfort, mentoring and advice," the suit said.

The lawsuit says Monahan likened the boys' mother to a "dragon lady" and told them their father, in the military at Whiteman Air Force Base, could not provide enough for them financially.

The lawsuit said the brothers did not tell their parents about the abuse until 2000. They have suffered depression, anxiety, loss of faith and hope, and many emotional disturbances since the abuse, the lawsuit said.

The brothers, now age 35 and 40, both are divorced and self-employed, their mother said in an interview. She and her husband are also divorced, she said.

Randles said she knew of no other lawsuits asserting sexual abuse by priests in which parents were plaintiffs, except those in which the victim had committed suicide.

Jeff Anderson, a Minneapolis lawyer who works with Randles and has filed lawsuits against priests for almost 800 plaintiffs, said none of his lawsuits, except for wrongful deaths, lists parents as plaintiffs. Other lawyers may have filed some, he said.

"I think it's probably extremely rare," Anderson said. Six weeks ago, Christopher Biersmith, 38, filed a lawsuit alleging Monahan had raped and sodomized him as a boy. Biersmith is Monahan's nephew. Previously, Kenneth Landes, 36, and an anonymous plaintiff sued Monahan over sexual abuse.

The lawsuits do not seek a total damage amount, except that the amount would be over the $25,000 that is the required for filing a case in circuit court.


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