Archive for Tuesday, August 6, 2002

KC archdiocese named in lawsuit

Accuser alleges Catholic Church responsible in former Lawrence priest’s sexual abuse case

August 6, 2002


A lawsuit filed in Douglas County District Court adds a new twist in the case against a former Lawrence Catholic priest already accused of taking indecent liberties with a child in two Kansas counties.

The suit against the Rev. Dennis Schmitz also names the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and says the "negligent, reckless and intentional sexual abuse" allegedly inflicted on the victim by Schmitz caused the victim to suffer injuries, medical expense and mental distress.

The archdiocese is named because it allegedly failed to promptly repudiate Schmitz's conduct. The archdiocese is responsible for Schmitz's conduct, according to the lawsuit.

Now 18 years old, the victim is a Johnson County man seeking damages in excess of $75,000.

The man also is listed as the victim in two criminal cases already pending against Schmitz. In June, Schmitz was charged with taking indecent liberties with a 15-year-old child in 1999 in Douglas and Nemaha counties.

Those same counties and dates are named in the civil case filed last week.

The claimant's Topeka attorney, Eugene Ralston, declined to comment on details of the lawsuit. He did say similar lawsuits filed against priests and the Catholic Church elsewhere have been successful with varied results. Many, however, are still to be resolved, he said.

Archbishop James Keleher was not available for comment. The archdiocese's attorney, John Jurcyk Jr., of Kansas City, Kan., said he was reviewing the lawsuit.

"In the meantime, the archdiocese will continue to cooperate with civil authorities," Jurcyk said.

Schmitz's attorney, Steve Mirakian, of Kansas City, Mo., declined to comment.

"I want to concentrate on the criminal cases right now and get them out of the way," Mirakian said.

On July 29, Schmitz waived his right to a preliminary hearing on the indecent liberties charge in Nemaha County. He is scheduled to be arraigned and enter a formal plea at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 29.

In Douglas County, Schmitz is scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 2 p.m. Aug. 14.

Plea negotiations are continuing in both counties, Mirakian said.

Schmitz lived and worked in Lawrence from the mid-1990s until July 2001, identifying and recruiting candidates for the Catholic seminary. Until June, he was pastor of St. Gregory's Parish in Marysville and St. Malachy's Parish in Beattie. He now lives in Marysville.

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