Archdiocese of St. Louis ordered to produce 20 years of documents on sexual abuse
A judge has ordered the Archdiocese of St. Louis to produce two decades worth of internal documents on sexual abuse allegations.
Thomas J. Prebil is only the second judge to attempt to compel the archdiocese to hand over such an extensive number of records.
The order, released earlier this week, is part of a civil lawsuit filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court involving the parents of a man from Florissant who sued the archdiocese over the suicide of their son.
The parents argue their son’s suicide in 2009 was the result of sexual and emotional abuse by Bryan Kuchar, a Roman Catholic priest at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury.
The documents are needed in order to show that the archdiocese had a pattern of reassigning problem priests, plaintiff lawyers argue.
The records are also essential in proving that the archdiocese made such reassignments knowing they would almost certainly lead to further harm — the burden of proof plaintiff lawyers in Missouri need to meet in sexual abuse lawsuits involving priests such as Kuchar.
Plaintiff lawyers made clear, however, that because of a protective order, the records, which will cover 20 years of allegations prior to the alleged abuse at the heart of the Kuchar case, will not be made available to the public but only used in trial.
Kuchar was suspended by the archdiocese in 2002 and defrocked by the Vatican in 2006. He is accused of molesting the plaintiffs’ son at the seminary’s overnight camp between 1999 and 2002.
The boy — known in court documents as John Doe SON — was between 12 and 14 at the time. Minors who wanted to learn more about how to become priests attended the camp.
Kuchar was found guilty of molesting a 14-year-old boy in 2003, while serving as a priest at Assumption Catholic Church in south St. Louis County. He was sentenced to three consecutive one-year terms in the St. Louis County Jail.
The last time the archdiocese was forced to produce such an abundant number of records was in 2013 in a case involving Joseph Ross, who in 2002 became the first priest in the archdiocese to be defrocked by the Vatican.
Throughout the discovery process, plaintiff attorneys and the archdiocese battled over how much information the church should disclose about prior allegations of sexual abuse.
Ultimately, it took a Missouri Supreme Court ruling for the archdiocese to hand over the names of all priests accused of abuse.
Although the case involving Ross ultimately settled, the public was for the first time made aware that 115 priests and other church employees dating back decades had sexual abuse allegations lodged against them.