Woman Says Former Priest Sexually Abused Her

St. Cloud Times
July 15, 2005

A former parishioner has sued St. Cloud Diocese and former priest Donald Rieder, accusing him of sexually abusing her in 1973.

The allegations in a civil complaint filed in Stearns County District Court first became public in December 2002 when another victim sued Rieder. That case resulted in a $500,000 settlement to the victim, who accused Rieder of abusing her in the early 1990s while she was a parishioner at St. John Cantius Church in St. Cloud.

The allegations in the new lawsuit, filed by a woman identified in court papers as Jane Doe 54, concern abuse the victim said happened in 1973 while Rieder was pastor at St. Louis Church in Paynesville. The allegations are old enough they fall outside the statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims in criminal court.

But the victim's lawyer accused the diocese of committing "fraudulent concealment" of information from the victim about Rieder. That concealment should extend the statute of limitations, Jeff Anderson said. Had the diocese told Jane Doe 54 or her family about a sexual abuse complaint it had received in the early 1960s about Rieder, Jane Doe 54 "would have acted differently," the complaint said.

Because the diocese failed to notify parishioners about the 1960s complaint against Rieder, it "misrepresented to plaintiff and her family that Rieder did not have a history of molesting children," that the diocese didn't know of that history and that the diocese didn't know Rieder was a danger to children, the complaint said.

That theory differs from one commonly used in sex abuse cases filed after the statute of limitations has run out — that the victim repressed the memory of the abuse. The theory in this case is the diocese could have hastened Jane Doe 54's recovery and "mitigated her damages," Anderson said.

Roger Schmitt, the lawyer for the diocese, declined to comment on the pending lawsuit or legal theories that might arise.

Rieder pleaded guilty in 2003 to three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and admitted abusing a young girl in the early 1990s while he was pastor at St. John Cantius Church. Rieder was sentenced to almost three years in prison, but those sentences were stayed on the condition Rieder serve a year in the county jail.

As part of his plea agreement to those charges, Rieder admitted molesting three other young, female parishioners. The agreement called for no charges in those cases, which fell within the criminal statute of limitations.


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