The John Doe lawsuit filed this month in the Circuit Court of Tennessee for the 30th Judicial District at Memphis is the latest of five involving the Rev. Paul W. St. Charles. The other four were settled in the summer of 2007 along with several other sexual abuse lawsuits naming other Memphis priests.
St. Charles, who at one time was the head of youth activities for the Diocese, was suspended in 2004 by Memphis Bishop J. Terry Steib. The suspension from all priestly duties came before any lawsuits were filed against him. It came after a Diocesan Review Board concluded it was “more likely than not” that St. Charles had sexually abused a sixth teenager during the 1970s.
The sixth teenager filed a complaint with church officials three years before the suspension and since has reached a private settlement. He has not filed a civil suit or criminal charges.
St. Charles has been retired since the late 1980s and lives in Nashville. He could not be reached for comment.
St. Charles is not a defendant in the lawsuit. The suit claims Memphis church leaders knew or should have known that the priest was “a dangerous sexual predator with a depraved sexual interest in young boys.”
“After finding out about (St. Charles’) abuse of minors, the Diocese actively took steps to protect (him), conceal the Diocese’s own wrongdoing in supervising (him) and prevent John Doe and other victims … from filing civil lawsuits,” the suit reads.
The claim is different from the other settled claims against St. Charles in that it does not allege repressed memories of sexual abuse. The lawsuit alleges negligence by the diocese under the theory of “fraudulent concealment,” which is used in cases that don’t involve repressed memories but involve allegations beyond the one-year statute of limitations in such civil cases.
The lawsuit alleges the sexual abuse happened in 1973 when St. Charles was associate pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Frayser. John Doe was an eighth grader at the parish school and an altar boy.
St. Charles allegedly invited the boy to go to the old Frayser Drive-In on U.S. 51 to see the movie “Soylent Green” with another eighth grader.
St. Charles took the hand of John Doe and used it to rub himself, the suit alleges.
The teen tried to avoid St. Charles for the rest of the school year, but St. Charles allegedly called on him during a school mass “in an effort John Doe believed to intimidate John Doe from telling anyone what had happened.”
The lawsuit seeks general and compensatory damages from the church as well as punitive and exemplary damages. It does not specify a dollar amount.
The other lawsuits against St. Charles also alleged sexual abuse during the 1970s and early 1980s, some under similar circumstances at the same movie theater.
No terms of the settlements in those cases were disclosed.
In addition to the new case involving St. Charles, there is another civil suit involving alleged child sexual abuse by a former Memphis priest that is still pending.
The Rev. Juan Carlos Duran is accused in a 2004 lawsuit of sexually abusing a teenager whose parents reported the abuse to church authorities. When the boy turned 18, he filed the John Doe lawsuit in Circuit Court alleging the Diocese and the Dominicans, the religious order Duran belonged to, covered up the incident, protected Duran and should have known of other allegations of child sexual abuse.
In depositions, leaders of the order have detailed Duran’s history as a member of their order and another religious order – the Franciscans. Duran was expelled from the Franciscans after allegations of sexual abuse and his Dominican superiors were warned of the problem. Memphis Diocesan officials also have admitted they did not get a letter from Dominican superiors indicating Duran was a member of the order in good standing.
They also didn’t question an incomplete resume from Duran that listed nothing before 1991.
Less than a year after Duran’s arrival in 1999, the teenager and his parents reported the sexual abuse. Duran’s priestly privileges were suspended immediately by Diocesan officials and his Dominican superiors ordered him to undergo treatment at an unspecified institution in Maryland.
Duran has since resigned as a priest and is believed to be living in his native Bolivia.
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