Suits Allege Abuse by St. Louis Priest

By Peter Shinkle
St. Louis Post-Dispatch [Missouri]
May 21, 2004

Two men filed lawsuits anonymously Thursday claiming that a St. Louis priest, Donald J. Straub, molested them during the 1970s and 1980s.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis responded with a statement apologizing for Straub's conduct and acknowledging that he had returned to the ministry after undergoing treatment for sexual abuse only to be accused again.

"The reassignment of Straub after therapy would not occur today," it said. "Unfortunately, in the past, there was a different understanding in society and among professionals of the danger that a person will again abuse, even after treatment."

The archdiocese is a defendant in the suits in St. Louis Circuit Court, seeking compensation for emotional distress and other damages. The claims are the latest in a series of such suits here.

One alleged victim, a police officer now in his early 40s, claims Straub abused him more than a dozen times in the mid-1970s at the rectory of St. George's Catholic Church in Affton and at a lake house in St. Clair.

Straub provided the boy with alcohol at the lake house, said the plaintiff's attorney, Rebecca Randles. She said she was urging prosecutors to file charges.

Straub, now 55, lives with relatives in south St. Louis County, according to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group. Straub could not be reached.

The other plaintiff, a design engineer in his 30s, claims Straub molested him over the course of a school year when he was about 12. That suit claims the abuse happened in a hotel room and elsewhere while Straub was at Our Lady Queen of Peace parish in House Springs.

The design engineer is married, has a child and lives in the Philadelphia area, SNAP said. The police officer has a child and lives in Missouri.

The suits said both men were raised in devoutly Roman Catholic families and grew to revere Straub.

"This guy was part of the family. He traveled with us, he was in our home all the time. I trusted him 100 percent," said the engineer's mother, an unnamed plaintiff in her son's suit.

The archdiocese said Straub was ordained in 1975 and assigned as an associate pastor at St. George's. In 1978, after sex abuse complaints, he was sent away for treatment. He returned in 1979 for a year as associate pastor at Our Lady Queen of Peace.

In 1980, he moved to St. Charles Borromeo, as associate pastor. In 1986 came new complaints of sexual abuse, according to archdiocesan spokesman Jim Orso.

"Straub was immediately removed and sent to a psychiatric institute for extensive treatment," the archdiocese said in its statement.

In 1990, after three years of treatment, Straub was assigned to the Diocese of Dodge City, Kan., which received "full disclosure" on Straub, the archdiocese here said.

In January 1991, months after he arrived at his new post, he returned to St. Louis because of problems "unrelated to abuse," the archdiocese said. Then-Archbishop John May re-imposed Straub's suspension from the ministry. Now, 13 years later, the archdiocese is taking steps to permanently remove him from the priesthood.


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