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Kansas City Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Nov 14, 2003 | Kansas City Star A fifth lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of a minor by former Kansas City priest Hugh F. Monahan was filed Thursday as more details emerged about his time in the clergy.

An anonymous plaintiff sued Monahan and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, contending Monahan "sexually abused and exploited him" in the late 1980s when he attended Holy Cross Church in Kansas City.

The man, now 33, said that the abuse began when he was almost 16 and that he later lived with Monahan before turning 18. Three priests and a deacon knew of the relationship but did nothing, the suit says.

"The failure of these priests to take action allowed the abuse to continue and furthered the diocese policy of covering up sexual abuse of minors," the suit states.

Monahan, who lived most recently in Puerto Rico, could not be located for comment on any of the lawsuits. Monahan was a priest at eight Roman Catholic parishes in the Kansas City area for 20 years, ending in 1989.

"At the time Hugh Monahan left the priesthood in June 1989, the diocese had no knowledge of complaints of sexual abuse against him," Vicar General Patrick Rush said in a prepared statement Thursday.

Rush, who is the diocese contact and spokesman on sex abuse allegations, is named in the lawsuit, as is Bishop Raymond J. Boland. The suit contends that church officials should have done more about abuse allegations.

Four other lawsuits have been filed against Monahan since September.

The lawsuits said numerous priests and others in the diocese were aware Monahan was taking sexual liberties with minors. One lawsuit said that he received therapy for the problem.

In an interview, Rush said that there is nothing in Monahan's files to indicate he had counseling related to sexual activity but that he cannot say for certain that did not happen.

"Did someone, somewhere have some information we don't have on file?" Rush said. "I can't verify that. We have no information."

Rush said Monahan took a leave for seven months in 1973 and went to New Orleans, where he worked at a restaurant. He took a five-month leave in 1987. The file indicates he complained of stress, ulcers, headaches and dizziness, Rush said.

When Monahan left the diocese for good in 1989, he said in a letter he was feeling tremendous stress but did not say why, Rush said.

After Monahan moved to Florida, he told the diocese he was seeing a psychiatrist.

"I have a sense this is a guy who was never comfortable in the priesthood," Rush said. The diocese kept him on its health insurance plan for one year but has offered no other financial support, Rush said.

The plaintiff in Thursday's suit said in an interview that Monahan got a job managing a Waldenbooks store in Florida. He said that they lived together in Florida but that they parted in 1990 and he has not talked to him since that year.

Monahan lived recently in a gated community in suburban San Juan, Puerto Rico, records indicate. But when a reporter went to his address last week, occupants of the house would not come to the door. The guard at the entrance gate said he did not think anyone named Monahan lived there.

An investigator for Rebecca Randles, attorney for the plaintiffs in all the Monahan suits, said he has been unable to locate Monahan.

Rush said the diocese has unsuccessfully tried to make contact.

Rush said the diocese was first approached by an alleged Monahan victim in 1990 and then by others in 1999 and 2002.

Some of those people are plaintiffs in recent lawsuits, including a man who is Monahan's nephew.

"Our diocese has made it known that we will respond promptly to any allegation of abuse," Rush said in the statement.

The diocese has set up a response team and offers counseling, Rush said.

The man who filed the suit Thursday had not complained to the diocese, Rush and the plaintiff said.

In the lawsuit, the man said he was in the choir at Holy Cross and spent a lot of time at the church. He said he went to Monahan for counseling at age 12 after a neighbor sexually molested him.

"Thereafter, defendant Monahan began touching, tickling and becoming physical with the little boy," the lawsuit said. "He taught the young boy that sexual contact with a priest was a holy matter."

He began having sex with the boy three years later, the suit said.

The lawsuit said the abuse has caused the plaintiff emotional distress and he suffered "undifferentiated rage, abandonment, depression and hopelessness."

He is currently on work leave and in therapy. Lawyers for the diocese have not filed responses to any of the Monahan lawsuits.

This week, the diocese filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit by Francis Scheuring against former priest Francis E. McGlynn, who Scheuring said abused him in 1973 and 1974.

The motion said the lawsuit does not clearly state its claims in accordance with the Missouri Rules of Civil Procedure.

A response to the first Monahan suit is due Monday.

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