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Former BR Altar Boy's Lawsuit Accuses Priest of Abuse

Jan 8, 2003 | Baton Rouge Advocate A former Baton Rouge altar boy and the Diocese of Baton Rouge are in negotiations to resolve a sexual abuse claim dating back to 1978, a Houston lawyer said Tuesday.

Felecia Y. Peavy said she has been representing the former altar boy, Patrick Myers, in discussions with the diocese for four months.

Peavy faxed a copy of a lawsuit against the diocese to the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge on Jan. 3. The lawsuit was filed earlier this week. The case has been assigned to state District Judge Duke Welch.

In the lawsuit, Myers claims Christopher Springer, then a priest with the Baton Rouge diocese, sexually abused him.

Myers claims the sexual abuse took place from 1978 through 1982 on diocese property. Named as defendants in the suit are the former priest, Christopher J. Springer, the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Bishop Robert W. Muench, and the diocese's insurance companies.

From 1974 to 1982, Bishop Joseph Sullivan led the Diocese of Baton Rouge. He died in 1982.

Muench was installed as the diocese's bishop in March.

Springer could not be reached for comment. Diocese officials did not return a phone call seeking comment on Tuesday.

Myers claims he was sexually abused on a weekly basis by Springer while the priest worked at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Baton Rouge and Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in Clinton.

Myers contends that the Diocese of Baton Rouge either knew or should have known that Springer was a "dangerous pedophile" before placing him in a position of authority over children.

Myers claims in the lawsuit that the Diocese of Baton Rouge, in conjunction with all other dioceses in the United States, conspired to hide the illegal conduct of some of its priests.

"In dioceses throughout the United States, including the Diocese of Baton Rouge, when cases of illegal sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests have surfaced, these cases have been handled in such a uniform fashion as to demonstrate a common plan and scheme for concealing these crimes from the public, failing to report and thus avoiding criminal prosecution of priest perpetrators and the filing of civil claims by victims," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit claims the conspiracy caused a delay in Myers getting treatment for the alleged abuse.

Peavy declined to talk about any specific problems Myers has suffered.

"He's never had a chance to succeed in life," Peavy said.

According to the lawsuit, the Diocese of Baton Rouge defrocked Springer in the 1990s.

The lawsuit contends that the Catholic Church has known about the dangers of having pedophiles as priests since the 1960s, if not before.

Peavy said that Springer's abusive behavior was not limited to Myers. She said other altar boys who grew up with Myers were abused by the priest.

The Catholic Church has been under intense public scrutiny over the past two years following reports that high-ranking church officials knew of sexual abuse problems and did not report the incidents to law enforcement authorities. Instead, many cases were settled out of court, costing the church millions. The scandal forced the resignation of the most senior American cardinal, Bernard Law of Boston, and led to the conviction of defrocked priest John Geoghan on child molestation charges.

Public pressure arising from the reports of alleged child sexual abuse prompted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June to adopt the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The charter, among other things, established a procedure for investigating sexual abuse allegations leveled against priests and reporting them.

The Diocese of Baton Rouge has acknowledged that six priests have been removed during the past 15 years because of credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors.

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