Seventh Lawsuit since Early 2004
Former Priest Faces New Molestation Allegation
By Kevin Murphy
Kansas City Star
July 7, 2005
An area man filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that former priest Thomas Reardon sexually abused him as a minor — the seventh such lawsuit against Reardon since early 2004.
The man, identified only as John Doe 47, said Reardon molested him in 1980 when he was 16 in the rectory of St. Gabriel's Catholic Church in Kansas City, North.
The suit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court, also contends that the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph knew of Reardon's improprieties with children as early as 1969, covered up his activities, and in 1989 found pornography in his quarters at St. Regis Catholic Church. Reardon stopped functioning as a priest that year and resigned in 1990, the diocese said.
Neither Reardon nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Wednesday. Through his previous lawyer, he denied allegations of sexual abuse.
Robert Murphy, vicar general of the diocese, said in a statement that he had not received the suit and could not respond. Later, diocesan spokeswoman Rebecca Summers, after looking at the lawsuit, said she "had no specific knowledge" of the allegations. The diocese was named as a defendant.
Reardon, 63, was sued by four men in three lawsuits in November, by individual men in October and last June, and by several men in January of last year. All of the lawsuits seek unspecified monetary damages. In all, five former active priests in Kansas City have been sued by about 30 plaintiffs in the past two years.
All of the lawsuits are on hold pending a Missouri Supreme Court ruling on whether a five-year statute of limitations applies in such cases. The appeals court in St. Louis ruled that the five years begin when a person's repressed memories of abuse are brought to the surface, but the appeals court in Kansas City said the period begins when the alleged victim turns 21.
In the latest lawsuit, the plaintiff was described as being "a troubled youth" at 16 who was encouraged to seek counseling from Reardon. The suit said Reardon disrobed in front of the plaintiff, required him to disrobe, and molested him sexually. The boy's parents reported the abuse to the Rev. Linus Link, now deceased, who promised he would take action, the lawsuit said.
Reardon remained at St. Gabriel's and was transferred to St. Regis parish in 1982. In all, he served five parishes in 22 years.
The plaintiff said he approached another St. Gabriel's priest in 1995 and was told that Reardon had died, which he said he assumed was true until he read a newspaper article about Reardon years later, the suit says.
The plaintiff's wife subsequently went to then diocesan vicar general Patrick Rush about Reardon, but was told that no allegations had been substantiated. But the lawsuit said Rush knew of Reardon's history of sexual abuse and about the finding of the pornography in 1989.
Rush, now the pastor at Visitation Church, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Summers, who has worked with Rush, said the allegations "did not ring with authenticity."
The lawsuit alleges that the diocese "actively developed a plan and a strategy for keeping Reardon's pedophilic tendencies away from public light" by taking such steps as moving him from parish to parish, claiming he was dead, hiding evidence of years of abuse, failing to report his abuses to police, and paying for him to obtain a counseling degree so that he could become a counselor after his priesthood.
The lawsuit said that although diocesan officials received reports about Reardon's alleged improprieties with children in 1969, they continued to let him spend time with boys and provide them alcohol. In 1989, the lawsuit said, after diocesan employees found alcohol and "illicit and/or lewd" materials at Reardon's residence, the employees were put under a "seal of confidentiality."
The plaintiff suffered "rage, abandonment, depression and hopelessness" as a result of the alleged abuse, according to the lawsuit. "Plaintiff has sustained or will sustain expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy and counseling," it says.
In his statement Wednesday, Murphy offered his "heartfelt apology and concern to anyone who has ever been victimized by a person acting in the name of our church."
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