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Judges dismiss parts of lawsuits against KC priests

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — State and federal judges have thrown out parts of several lawsuits involving allegations of sexual abuse in rare wins for an embattled Catholic diocese and accused priests.

The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/KuZFdo) reports Jackson County Circuit Judge Peggy Stevens McGraw threw out all allegations Monday against the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in a suit filed last year by David Tate of Kansas City.

Tate claimed the Rev. Michael Tierney abused him at Tierney’s mother’s home and at a hotel swimming pool in the early 1970s.

McGraw also dismissed eight criminal charges against Tierney but allowed civil lawsuits against him to continue. Tierney has denied all wrongdoing.

The judge ruled that the church would be liable only if Tierney was engaged in activities within the scope of his employment.

“This court finds that the intentional acts of sexual misconduct do not fall within the scope of a priest’s employment and, in fact, are forbidden,” McGraw wrote.

She also dismissed the notion that the diocese was responsible, writing that imposing such liability would violate the First Amendment by creating “an excessive entanglement of church and state.”

Tate’s lawyer, Rebecca Randles, said she would ask McGraw to reconsider her decision, and if the judge won’t do that, Randles said she plans an immediate appeal.

A spokeswoman for the diocese issued a statement agreeing with McGraw’s interpretation of the law.

“The diocese believes that these rulings reflect just responses to the facts and relevant law in these cases,” the statement said. “While the diocese continues to pursue resolution of these civil claims, it recognizes that any person who has suffered sexual abuse deserves care and compassion.”

In federal court, U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner excluded parents from two lawsuits claiming they suffered damages after the Rev. Shawn Ratigan took lewd pictures of their daughters. Fenner ruled that only the child victims could collect damages under federal law.

“Parents are not ‘victims’ under (the law) because they are not persons who . were personally injured by the alleged sexual exploitation and . were not minors at the time the alleged sexual exploitation occurred,” Fenner wrote.

Ratigan remains in custody after being charged last year with several state and federal child pornography charges.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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