ST. LOUIS (AP) - A lawsuit filed by the family of a teenage girl who says she was molested by a priest accuses St. Louis' archbishop of trying to tamper with evidence by asking for the return of a $20,000 check left by the priest on the family's car out of apparent remorse.
The lawsuit, filed last week in Lincoln County, also accuses Archbishop Robert Carlson of negligence for supposedly knowing the Rev. Xiu Hui Jiang was a threat to children before Jiang was charged with molestation. The lawsuit doesn't detail how Carlson would have known that.
Jiang, a 30-year-old native of China, was charged with child endangerment after the girl told police he had molested her while he was an associate pastor at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica.
A message left Thursday by The Associated Press with Jiang's attorney, Paul D'Agrosa, wasn't returned. The archdiocese said in a statement that the lawsuit's claims "are false and will be denied." Jiang's whereabouts were not immediately known.
After meeting the girl when she was first 15, the lawsuit says, Jiang became the family's priest and counselor. Jiang later regularly visited the family's Lincoln County home and "became very affectionate" with the girl, at times holding her, stroking her hair and urging her to "look like a woman and not a child," according to the lawsuit.
Jiang told the girl he was romantic and lonely, and later kissed the girl and manipulated her into sexual contact, using scripture to justify it, according to the lawsuit. It alleges the misconduct often happened in the family's home but at times in or outside the church rectory.
After the girl's mother discovered her daughter's questionable emails with Jiang and confronted him last year, he admitted abusing the teenager and said he would report his misconduct to Carlson, the lawsuit alleges. Jiang returned to the family's home that night and left a $20,000 check on their car, then apologetically told the girl's mother by text the money was "because of his "stupidity,'" according to the lawsuit.
Carlson later called the girl's parents and told them Jiang admitted wrongdoing, prompting the mother to ask the archbishop if Jiang would be removed from the priesthood, the lawsuit alleges.
Carlson replied that "he would remove Jiang if he "had sex' with the child, but not for activities other than that," according to the lawsuit.
Carlson then suggested the parents return the $20,000 check, but the parents gave it to police as possible evidence, according to the lawsuit.