Clergy Sex-Abuse Claim from Former St. Mary Magdalen Parishoner Denied on Appeal

PaulAlvino11.JPG
Paul Alvino is suing the church for not supervising a priest who molested him in the 70s.
The Eastern District Court of Appeals ruled today that if a local Catholic priest with a history of sexually abusing children molests a young boy but does it solely off of church property, the Archdiocese of St. Louis can't be held legally responsible.

(The technical way to say it, for all you legal types, is that the Church can't be held liable for "intentional failure to supervise.")

Paul J. Alvino now lives in Mehlville, but he grew up in the St. Mary Magdalen parish in South City. Alvino claims that the late Fr. Thomas Cooper abused him during a trip out to the country back in 1971 -- an experience that Alvino says was erased from his memory, only to be recovered in a therapy session ten years ago.

(For the full background on this case, see our feature, "Sins of the Father.")
True, recovered memories are notoriously sketchy, but there's plenty of evidence suggesting Alvino is telling the truth: The local Church hierarchy exchanged letters back in the late '60s about how to handle "the problem of Father Cooper." Furthermore, Cooper had previously been sued by another man for very similar allegations, and settled out of court -- a matter which Alvino knew nothing about at the time he recovered his memory.

When Daily RFT called Alvino for his response to today's ruling, he hadn't yet heard about it and added that he was "shocked."

Sources who wish to remain anonymous because the litigation is pending say that the Church has offered financial assistance to Alvino which would cover his therapy. However, negotiations have not yet produced a settlement.

Church spokespersons did not immediately return phone calls to Daily RFT.

"This was never about the money for me," Alvino said today.  "More than anything I want my day in court, I was on a mission to expose the Archdiocese for what they've done."

Alvino said he hasn't spoken to his lawyer and doesn't know yet if he'll appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court.

Update at 5:11 p.m.

Alvino's Kanas-City-based attorney, Rebecca Randles, says her client will certainly appeal the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court.

The practical effect of the Court's decision, should it stand, would be that "the Archdiocese can have a known pedophile like Fr. Cooper, allow him to take children off campus, and if abuse happens off campus, they won't be liable for that."
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26 comments
Tim Bollinger
Tim Bollinger

Personally, I don't think I would forget or repress being sexually molested.  As a child growing in the same era, I can understand not telling anyone, fear, embarassment, shame etc.  I think he's telling the truth, Cooper had been caught before.  However, little skeptical on just wanting his day in court, I'm pretty sure he asked for a financial settlement.  The ruling is pitiful, if a teacher did it, I'm sure they would lose their job and be prosecuted.  The Catholic church has unlimited finances and the best lawyers because of it.  This is a travesty that has been happening for hundreds of years and they will have a tough time when they appeal.  It will stop when the Catholic people hold their clergy accountable.

huangbrong
huangbrong

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Patrick O'Malley
Patrick O'Malley

Great lawyers, horrible church.  What an embarrassing institution the Catholic church has become.  And Jesus weeps.

AbusedByNun
AbusedByNun

My God !

We'll recruit you if you don't abuse in church.We'll educate you if you don't abuse in church.We'll train you whether you abuse or not.We'll ordain you if you don't abuse in church.We'll pay you while in church.We'll pay you when not in church. We'll pay you as long as you don't abuse a child in church.

Makes moral sense to me.

huangbrong
huangbrong

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Acglee
Acglee

As a 13 year old good girl teacher's pet great student who never missed a day of gradeschool, and the last of 5 my salesman father put through Immacolata Parish (yet we frequented St. Mary Magdalyn's), I hold NO doubt that Mary Magdalen would cover and wash it's hands of the misdeeds of one of their own. I was sexually molested, torn away from peers, ridiculed by parish members, and bullied by ex-friends - all because the nun, Sr. Judith Fisher, who was my homeroom teacher,  took a "liking" to me. This went on for 7 full years, in many different states, with the knowledge of her best friend, the principat of the school at the time. When brought forward to Monsignor Flavin, he promised to take care of the situation. It was not done. I lived with the belief that the nun's lead was a holy one, in the name of God. Suddenly, at the age of 45, I realized that the whole thing was abuse in the name of love to tear me from my family and others who cared. I was an easy target, and my entire focus was on the nun. I couldn't get enough of her. She convinced me I was "cool", "mature", "special in God's eyes" and that she was doing His will in the name of love. It made me feel unique, and that fit, since I never felt like I fit inl. When I recognized the abuse, it was too late for recourse. The Archdiocese washed their hands; they were not responsible for her deviant behavior even though they employed her. I had SUCH evidence, and it hardly meant anything. Just a group of nice CSJ nuns listened, apologized and gave up a mere pittance for my future, and that I only got a little over half of.

How dare you doubt the words of the victim, who suppressed the incident for years, and is now hurt with the discovery of the abuse! Too little too late, may be true, but it is not fair and does further harm to the victim's sense of innocense! As clergy abuse victims, we are steadfastly "urged" to not bring disgrace to our parish, and not put your abused child through the trauma of a courtroom trial. I believe they realize, BUT DON'T CARE, that further harm is perpetuated by the repression of the abuse, carrying on the belief that the child "asked for it!"

Sandy in Chicago
Sandy in Chicago

Unbelievable!   So that means a known abusive teacher can abuse children off school property and the school is not responsible?  Surely they can't be serious.  Sandy in Chicago

david clohessy
david clohessy

To Mr. "Innocent until proven guilty" - Here's what a judge in this case found: "The archdiocese concedes that the archdiocese knew . . .that Cooper had a history of sexual abuse of children. . . and that his (church) supervisors knew that leaving Cooper alone with children was certain ro result in harm to them yet they disregarded that known risk and as a result, Plaintiff was sexually abused by Fr. Cooper."So let's move off the guilt-innocence question and on to the question of the continued legal hard-ball and hairsplitting and "rubbing salt into wounds" defense strategy of men who profess to be Christ's representatives on earth, ok?  David Clohessy, Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, (7234 Arsenal Street, St. Louis MO 63143), 314 566 9790 cell (SNAPclohessy@aol.com)                         

Altarboy
Altarboy

“Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.”----Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen,before the Knights of Columbus, June 1972

Guest
Guest

How about innocent until proven guilty. This guy recovers a memory 30 years after the event and we are supposed to take his word for it. "but there's plenty of evidence suggesting Alvino is telling the truth." The only "evidence" referenced in this article are letters that do not relate to Alvino directly and a separate court case. How can Alvino prove he didnt know anything about the other case? Maybe he was hard up for cash and heard that one of his old priests was being charged with abuse. The church is paying for his therapy sessions based solely on his allegations from a recovered memory. Do you think any corporation in the world would be so generous? Dont get me wrong, I believe this Father Cooper was a bad guy and the church covered him up. But in America the burden of proof is on the accuser. Just trying to play devil's advocate for all you "legal types"

Guest
Guest

Another case of the Catholic church not taking responsibility. Very sad.

guest
guest

This is the typical way the Catholic chuch has handled abuse cases. So, the court says that the Arch of St. Louis is not responsible for one of its priests if the abuse happened off of church property: What a put down to the abused Paul Alvino. What a sham. Just another way the church gets away with abusing clergy!

Rosemary McHugh
Rosemary McHugh

As a Catholic physician who has met many who have been abused by priests in the Roman Catholic Church, it saddens me that the leaders of the Church are not acting like mature and caring adults.  I believe that Jesus would be outraged by how poorly the Church is treating those who have been abused by priests.

It takes courage for those who have been abused by priests to come forward.  Many of the abused never come forward.  Some of those abused by priests even commit suicide.

Playing political games, in and out of court, against victims of priest sexual abuse and protecting predator priests, speaks volumes to me of the lack of maturity and courage of Pope Benedict XVI and other leaders of the Church, in dealing with priest sexual abuse in an honest and just manner.

Sadly, Pope Benedict XVI chooses to hide behind a claim of having diplomatic immunity, so that he will not have to tell the truth and open Vatican documents, on worldwide priest sexual abuse, for investigation.  

The claim of diplomatic immunity is being challenged by G. Robertson,QC, a human rights lawyer and judge at the United Nations for crimes against humanity, in his new book THE CASE OF THE POPE.

The truth will set us free.  The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church can no longer be allowed to be a law unto themselves.  As citizens of the world, they need to be made accountable.

In my research on this issue, all roads lead to Rome and to those in the Vatican as the source of the worldwide systematic cover-up of priest sexual abuse, especially of innocent children.Something must be done by the civil authorities to end this tragedy and the soul-murder of innocent children!

Sincerely,    Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, IL.   mchughrosemary@gmail.com

Altarboy
Altarboy

Unbelievable! Letter after a letter after r!

Luke Rheaume
Luke Rheaume

The Church, the Bishop and the Priests are supposed to represent Jesus Christ - The Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd seeks out the lost sheep, cares for the sheep and brings it back to the fold.  These are not shepherds, and certainly not Good Shepherds following the example of Jesus. As an institution based on 'Christian Principles', why don't they accept responsibility to care for these abused people and reach out and help them.  Maybe they are just too proud to admit that they were/are wrong and need to change to better reflect the the Savior the claim as their reason for being.Shame on the church for not loving and forgiving and reaching out for those in need.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Christianity:  A cult of buggery, greed, and hypocrisy.

Kay4Justice
Kay4Justice

I too hope that Alvino will appeal and that he will win.  No doubt money has changed hands once again in St. Louis.  The authority of the church is interested only in the Almighty Dollar and does not even understand the meaning of the word JUSTICE.

Judy Block-Jones
Judy Block-Jones

Well now, isn't this ruling convenient for the St Louis Archdiocese and for predator priests.

It never ceases to amaze me how cruel the church officials and their lawyers can be. They use every tiny little technicality they can conjure up to not be held responsible, but mainly to keep themselves out of the court room and off that witness stand.

Like Paul Alvino says, he wanted to have his day in court so the full truth can be exposed about how the archdiocese covers up crimes against kids.

Until the courts start allowing victims of child sex abuse to have their day in court, kids will never be safe. The truth needs to be exposed, and those who commit crimes against kids need to be held accountable. Not just pay out money, they need to be put in jail..like any other human being.

This is so sad for Paul Alvino, and for victims of clergy abuse, We hope that he does not give up the fight.Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511snapjudy@gmail.com"Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests" http://www.snapnetwork.org/

Jane Lover Not
Jane Lover Not

Said it once and I'll say it again.  If the Church is honestly interested in eradicating their sordid history in these cases, they will waive any and all statute of limitation defenses that they may have.

Patrick O'Malley
Patrick O'Malley

So sorry to hear about it.  In case it hasn't been said to you already, it's not your fault.  You live in a clouded world, but believe me, none of us can understand what a vicious, heartless institution the Catholic church is, and why people still go there.

Patrick O'Malley
Patrick O'Malley

No, because the school doesn't pay for the high priced lawyers that the Catholic church does.  Oh, and schools have morals.

Traviswilbanks
Traviswilbanks

To Mr. David Clohessy,First, respectful dialogue and debate do not require a tone of condescension. Second, nowhere in this or the "Sins of the Father" article does it mention that Fr. Cooper's guilt in respect to this plaintiff had been established, thanks for the clarification. If Mr. Phillips had done some journalistic due diligence I wouldn't have had to get that important piece of information from the message board.

Patrick O'Malley
Patrick O'Malley

Traviswilbanks is just reading from the Catholic playbook:1) blame the victim (a child who was raped by a priest)2) try to deflect attention elsewhere (claim child rape happens everywhere)3) claim it's all about money4) use the protection of the local legal system (innocent until guilty in US)

In other words, the Catholic church is now down to 4 commandments.

GodsHonestTruth
GodsHonestTruth

Dear Guest, I agree, we don't know for sure that Cooper is guilty...but that's not the core issue. Folks commenting here are rightfully irate because Catholic leadership has repeatedly, in case after case, failed to show immediate remorse, failed to demonstrate cooperative transparency, and failed to turn in the bishops who enabled and protected pedophiles.It doesn't matter if Cooper is guilty. Thanks to the immoral precedent it has set, the Catholic hierarchy deserves all this suspicion, caustic censure, and more.

Acglee
Acglee

In religious territory, you may as well just play the Devil himself.  How do you accuse an unknowing child who obeys his "messenger to God"!?

Patrick O'Malley
Patrick O'Malley

Their Jesus wears a suit, goes to court, and celebrate with Saint Pauli Girl afterwards.

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