New Ulm Diocese sued over sex abuse

NEW ULM – A lawsuit against the Diocese of New Ulm has been filed by a man who claims he was sexually abused by a priest, the Rev. Francis Markey, when he was pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Henderson in 1982.

The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday, takes advantage of a new law easing the state’s statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Markey, a native of Ireland, died last September in Ireland where he was awaiting trial for the sexual assault of a teenage boy in 1964. He was also named in a 2011 lawsuit brought by a man who claimed he had been abused while Markey was serving in St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Granite Falls in 1982. The Diocese of New Ulm was also named as a defendant in that suit, which was eventually dismissed.

The lawsuit, filed in Brown County District Court Tuesday, said Markey had been accused at least three times of sexual assault of a minor between 1964 and 1982, had been suspended from the priesthood, and had undergone treatment in hospitals in Ireland, England and New Mexico before coming to the New Ulm Dioceses. The lawsuit claims the diocese knew or should have known about Markey’s history of sexual abuse and unsuccessful treatments, and failed to inform parishioners about his past. The suit claims the diocese failed to have the proper policies and procedures in place to protect the victim and others from sexual abuse from someone who occupied a position of power, reverence and respect.

The lawsuit is seeking monetary damages in excess of $50,000, and a long list of equitable relief demands aimed at making sure the diocese has policies in place to identify accused sexual predators among its priests, and to protect its congregations from them.

Patrick Noacker, attorney for the plaintiff who is identified only as John Doe in the suit, said his client, who was 15 at the time he was assaulted, is most concerned that young people in the diocese still aren’t being protected the way they should be. His client feels that rural children victimized by clergy aren’t getting the same concern as those in highly populated areas like Boston.

“He wants a real conversation to be had about what is happening,” said Noacker.

Noacker said the abuse in 1982 was reported to the diocese, and that his client knows he has been affected and he has not been able to “put it behind him. He wants to have treatment, but money is standing in the way of that,” Noacker said.

The Diocese of New Ulm issued a statement about the case on Monday:

“In December of 1981, Fr. Markey came to Willmar, Minn., located in the Diocese of New Ulm. He had applied for and was accepted to participate in a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program at Willmar State Hospital. “While participating in that program, he did some temporary parish work in the diocese.

“For about three months in the spring of 1982, Fr. Markey served at the Church of St. Andrew in Granite Falls, following the death of the church’s pastor and before the new pastor began his assignment there. Fr. Markey left the Diocese of New Ulm in June of 1982. Since that time, Fr. Markey did not live in or serve the diocese in any capacity. Fr. Markey died in 2012.

“In January of 2011, the Diocese of New Ulm was named in a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of a minor by Fr. Markey.

“The Diocese of New Ulm deeply regrets the long-lasting and devastating effects of sexual misconduct on the part of clergy. Such misconduct requires positive action on our part and we have been strengthening our systems and procedures in order to address this grave issue by following the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” established in June 2002.

“The Diocese of New Ulm has been diligent in its efforts to establish a safe environment program which educates clergy, teachers, parents, and students, and helps them identify and prevent sexual misconduct. We are committed to offer help and healing to anyone who has been a victim of sexual misconduct and to prevent this terrible crime in the diocese. Anyone who has suffered sexual abuse, exploitation, or harassment by a priest, deacon, pastor, or pastoral administrator of the Diocese of New Ulm is asked to report such misconduct to the Victim Assistance Coordinator or the Bishop’s Delegate in Matters Pertaining to Sexual Misconduct, 1400 6th Street North, New Ulm, MN 56073; phone: 507-359-2966.”

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