Diocese, Woman Settle 1973 Sex-Abuse Case

By David Unze
St. Cloud Times
October 27, 2005

A former parishioner at St. Louis Church in Paynesville has settled a lawsuit against the St. Cloud Diocese in which she accused former priest Donald Rieder of sexually abusing her in 1973.

Susan Fuchs-Hoeschen received $17,500 from the diocese to settle the case, which she acknowledged likely would have been thrown out by the courts because it was filed so long after the abuse. The lawsuit named Rieder as a defendant, but he later was dropped from the case.

"I am pleased and realistic that hopefully other victims will come forward earlier so that they can be successfully litigated," said Fuchs-Hoeschen, who was identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe 54. She agreed to allow the Times to identify her for this article.

She and her attorney knew the lawsuit stood virtually no chance of withstanding a statute of limitations challenge. That law sets limits on how quickly lawsuits must be filed after sexual abuse has occurred. A court hearing had been scheduled before a Stearns County judge to argue that issue when the lawsuit was settled.

"It would have been (dismissed)," said Jeff Anderson, Fuchs-Hoeschen's attorney. "The law is such that it is screwed up in Minnesota and it has to be changed. But this isn't about the money, and it rarely is for victim-survivors."

The diocese acknowledged Fuchs-Hoeschen had been harmed, but there was no apology nor acknowledgment from Rieder, she said.

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.

"I feel I got my acknowledgment some time ago when Don Rieder stood in court and admitted that he had harmed us sexually and spiritually as well," Fuchs-Hoeschen said.

1 more case

Susan Fuchs-Hoeschen's settlement with the St. Cloud Diocese closes all but one of several civil cases filed in the past few years against area clergy.

Today, the state Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments regarding the settlement of another St. Cloud-area clergy sex-abuse case.

In that case, former diocese priest James Thoennes was accused of sexually abusing a young man in the mid-1960s at a Sauk Centre home where Thoennes' parents lived.


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