Lawsuit accuses Mo. abbey of abuse cover-up

MARYVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man sued a Roman Catholic abbey Thursday, alleging officials covered up sexual abuse by a monk in the 1980s.

The lawsuit, filed in Nodaway County Circuit Court, claims the plaintiff was molested by the monk in 1987 while attending a summer camp at Conception Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in northwest Missouri, The Kansas City Star reported.

Filing suit under the name John Doe 181, the plaintiff alleges the abbey knew the monk had previously sexually abused other students but kept it quiet. The monk, who later became an Episcopal priest and now works in Las Vegas, is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota attorney who represents the plaintiff, said the monk “wasn’t able to control himself, but it was the abbot and the top officials who knew that and made the choice to protect themselves at the peril of many kids and young adults.”

Abbot Gregory Polan, the current head of Conception Abbey, told The Star he had been directed by lawyers not to comment. Jon Haden, a Kansas City attorney for the abbey, said he would not comment until he could review the lawsuit.

Conception Abbey is home to Conception Seminary College, one of the nation’s largest Catholic college seminaries. The college is run by the monks of the abbey.

According to the lawsuit, the monk lived at the abbey from 1973 through 1979, then spent three years at a theological school in Minnesota. He returned to Conception Abbey in 1982 with various responsibilities.

The lawsuit alleges the monk had sexual contact with the plaintiff in the summer of 1987. The plaintiff says he told his parents by phone about the contact the following day.

Confronted by the parents, the then-abbot said the monk had suffered a “mental breakdown” for which he would receive treatment, according to the lawsuit. In fact, the lawsuit alleges, the monk had told the abbot he had been involved in four previous inappropriate sexual relationships.

The lawsuit says the monk was sent to a Catholic treatment center in New Mexico for three months after the plaintiff’s 1987 report. He was later employed at several churches in the Southwest before becoming an Episcopal clergyman.

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