Suit Says Priest Abused Men in '65

By Steven Ward
Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
April 13, 2004

A lawsuit filed by four men who have accused a now-deceased priest of sexually molesting them in 1965 while they were children and parishioners at St. Theresa of Avila Catholic Church will go to trial April 26, 23rd Judicial District Court Judge Alvin Turner ruled Monday.

Turner denied a defense motion asking the court to dismiss the case on the issue of prescription. Prescription in this case is defined as the one-year time limit plaintiffs have to file a lawsuit after they knew or should have known about an act occurring that caused damage or injury.

Attorney Don Richard, a lawyer for The Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge and for St. Theresa of Avila Catholic Church, argued that the parents of the four men went to the pastors of St. Theresa in 1965 when they became aware of what reportedly happened to their children, but they never filed a lawsuit.

Plaintiffs' attorney Darrel Papillion argued that the four victims, now in their 40s, suffered severe repressed memory until intense media coverage of the 2002 Catholic Church sex abuse scandal in Boston dredged up the memories. The four filed their lawsuit in spring 2003.

The accused priest, the Rev. John Berube, died some time ago, Papillion said.

Papillion said the four boys - two sets of brothers - were reportedly abused at the church, at the home of one set of brothers and at one family's fishing camp between February 1965 and August 1965. He said that Berube was removed from the church as soon as the boys' parents told the pastors of the church about what happened.

According to the lawsuit, the four victims did not confront their parents as adults about what happened to them until April 23, 2002, following media coverage of the Boston Catholic Church sex scandal.

Papillion said the victims were between the ages of 9 and 13 when the crimes occurred during a six-month period.

Deacon Bob Furlow, communications director for The Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge, said Monday that the diocese acted according to policy and reported the alleged crimes to the District Attorney's Office as soon as they learned what happened. Furlow also said Berube was only at St. Theresa for six months and he was not a diocesan priest, but a member of an order. That order - The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Sallette - is based in St. Louis and is also a defendant in the lawsuit.

Monday in court, attorney Timothy McNamara of Lafayette, representing the order, argued a defense motion to dismiss the case based on the order's liability. Turner said he would rule on the motion at a later date. Papillion did not oppose that motion, but Richard did.

Papillion said there is a conflicting view between the diocese and the order over what kind of control the order had over Berube at the time of the reported crimes.

Papillion said Berube was immediately sent back to the order in St. Louis after the 1965 allegation.

Papillion said he was happy with Turner's decisions Monday.

"We look forward to having an Ascension Parish jury decide this case," Papillion said.


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