Judge Throws out Abuse Suit against Priest

By Paul Hampel
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
September 6, 2004

A Madison County judge has dismissed a woman's sexual abuse suit against a Catholic priest she alleges abused her in the 1960s and 1970s.

Circuit Judge Phillip J. Kardis ruled in June that the plaintiff, Virginia Galloway, now 46 and living in Georgia, waited too long to file her suit against the Rev. Richard Niebrugge, who served at churches in Madison County at the time of the alleged incidents. Galloway filed the suit in January. She claimed Niebrugge began abusing her when she was 10 and continued to do so into her adulthood.

Galloway also sued Monsignor Theodore Baumann and the Rev. Herman Niebrugge, Richard Niebrugge's brother, claiming they covered up the abuse.

Both Niebrugge brothers have since died.

Baumann now is pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Freeburg.

Kardis based his ruling on a version of Illinois' statute of repose that, at the time of the alleged abuse, contained a 12-year filing period that began when the alleged victim reached age 18.

The statute was revised last year to allow people who believe they were abused as children to file suit for up to a decade after turning 18 or up to five years after discovering that they had been injured by childhood sexual abuse.

But Kardis ruled that the earlier version of the statute permanently protected the defendants, regardless of any revisions.

Galloway's attorney, Rex Carr, said that the abuse caused Galloway to suffer from multiple personalities and that she filed the claim only after coming to realize she had been victimized.

Carr has appealed Kardis' ruling to the 5th District Court of Appeals in Mount Vernon, Ill.

"We're going to argue that the Legislature had the right to enact the new law giving people who were abused the right to sue for compensation, and that the rights of the defendant do not prevail over those rights," Carr said.

Richard Niebrugge died in 1983.

Herman Niebrugge had been a priest in the Springfield diocese until he died in February as a result of injuries suffered in an auto accident near Effingham, Ill., on Jan. 29 -- two days after Galloway had filed her suit.

Baumann, 62, reached at the St. Joseph church rectory, denied knowing Galloway or the Niebrugge brothers.

"I don't know who she was, and I never met the brothers," Baumann said. "I'm trying to figure out what my connection was supposed to have been."

Carr said Galloway was taken from an abusive home at an early age and spent time in different foster homes and facilities. But after Galloway met Niebrugge in 1967, he took her under his wing, until finally she was just living with him from rectory to rectory, Carr said. Niebrugge's obituary lists churches in Springfield and Decatur, as well as the churches of St. Mary's and Sts. Peter and Paul in Alton; St. Boniface in Edwardsville; Sts. Peter and Paul in Collinsville; and St. Paul's in Highland.

In 1977, Carr said, Galloway conceived a child by Niebrugge. She married the next year, Carr said, and her new husband took the son as his own. Carr said he planned to use DNA testing to prove Niebrugge was the child's father.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.