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Archive for Saturday, August 27, 2005

3 more accuse priest of molestation

August 27, 2005

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— Three more lawsuits have been filed claiming sexual abuse by a retired priest who is a defendant in three other lawsuits filed last year.

The plaintiffs, two of them anonymous, sued the Rev. Thomas J. O'Brien and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on Wednesday. The lawsuits, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court, claim the diocese knew as early as 1969 that O'Brien was prone to abuse but did nothing to keep him from working with children.

The two anonymous plaintiffs claim they were molested by the priest at his cottage northeast of Kansas City. Craig Wilkerson, of St. Joseph, alleges that O'Brien began molesting him in 1979, when he was 12.

One anonymous plaintiff's lawsuit claimed he was molested from 1971 to 1975, that O'Brien gave him marijuana and other drugs and that the priest shared his bed at the cabin with a number of boys.

The third man's lawsuit claimed O'Brien began molesting him in 1976, when he was 12.

O'Brien has denied the claims in the three 2004 lawsuits, which are pending. His attorney, Gerald McGonigle, said he had not seen the most recent lawsuits but that O'Brien "clearly, strenuously and vociferously denies any wrongdoing."

Diocesan officials said Thursday they had not seen the lawsuits and could not comment.

The diocese has acknowledged receiving complaints about O'Brien as far back as 1983 and that he underwent psychological treatment after that first allegation.

He served as a part-time chaplain at St. Joseph Health Center from 1984 until 2002, when he retired after five men complained that he molested them in 1983.

At a news conference Thursday, Wilkerson said he wanted to see O'Brien defrocked and that he agreed to allow his name to be made public in hopes that others would come forward.

"I wish he would say he's sorry," Wilkerson said.

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