Topekan Files Claim against Diocese

Associated Press, carried in Topeka Capital Journal
August 31, 2005

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Two men have filed lawsuits alleging a late Roman Catholic priest sexually abused them in the 1950s.

Gary Lee Smith, of Topeka, and Hank Talbot, who lives in northwest Missouri, made the allegations against the Rev. Sylvester Hoppe in lawsuits filed against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph last week in Jackson County Circuit Court.

The lawsuits, which seek unspecified monetary damages, claim that the diocese "ignored, covered up and concealed" Hoppe's behavior. He died in 2002.

The diocese had no record of complaints from the men, said the Rev. Robert A. Murphy, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, in a written statement released Monday afternoon.

"The diocese," the statement said, "is deeply sorry for what has happened to innocent children due to the abuse perpetrated by some priests."

The diocese settled a similar lawsuit against Hoppe in September 2003 for $10,000.

In the latest lawsuits:

• Smith said he was living at a diocese-operated orphanage in St. Joseph when he was abused between 1951 and 1956. Hoppe, the suit says, gave Smith clothes, wine and candy while he was living in a rectory attached to the orphanage. Smith said he was 10 when the abuse started.

• Talbot said Hoppe recruited him as an altar boy when he was 10 or 11. Talbot, who lived with his family in St. Joseph, said he slept in the same bed with Hoppe when they went on overnight trips to towns where the priest would perform Mass. The abuse started in 1950 when Talbot was 13, according to the lawsuit.


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