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Kansas City diocese reaches settlement in abuse case

Monday, July 8, 2013 | 5:52 p.m. CDT; updated 9:01 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 8, 2013

INDEPENDENCE — The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has reached a $2.25 million settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by a Missouri couple who contended their 14-year-old son committed suicide because of repeated sexual abuse by a Kansas City priest.

The boy, Brian Teeman, of Independence, died of a gunshot wound in November 1983. His parents, Donald and Rosemary Teeman, filed the lawsuit in Jackson County court in September 2011 after a man who was an altar boy with their son told them of the alleged abuse, The Kansas City Star reported.

Jury selection for the trial was underway Monday in Jackson County court in Independence when the settlement agreement was announced.

The diocese said in a statement that it chose to settle the claim "in consideration of the financial and emotional toll on all parties of an anticipated four-week trial."

"In these circumstances, the Diocese believes that the settlement is in the best interest of the Teeman family, Nativity of Mary parish community and the people of the Diocese as a whole," the diocese statement said. The terms of the settlement agreement also require the diocese to place a bench at Nativity of Mary Parish in Independence in honor of Brian Teeman.

The lawsuit said the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph shared responsibility for the boy's death because church officials knew Monsignor Thomas J. O'Brien was sexually abusing boys but covered it up. The parents were seeking unspecified damages from the diocese.

O'Brien, 86, is also named in the lawsuit and has repeatedly denied all abuse allegations. His attorney, Gerald McGonagle, did not respond to a request for comment.

Diocesan attorneys have argued there was no proof the diocese knew Teeman had been abused, nor was there proof that Brian had committed suicide or that he had committed suicide because of abuse. The diocese also argued that too much time had passed.

Missouri has a three-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases, but Jackson County Circuit Judge Michael Manners held as valid the Teemans' argument that the statute should be suspended because of what they said was the defendants' cover up, fraud and concealment of O'Brien's alleged abuse of their son and other children. The diocese unsuccessfully appealed Manners' ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court.

The Teemans' lawyer, Rebecca Randles, said the settlement, which requires a hearing before it's finalized, "allows everyone to put this behind them."

"It allows closure," she said.

Rosemary Teeman said the family was relieved to have the trial finished. But she said: "It's bittersweet."

Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, questioned the diocese's motive for the settlement.

"We believe that church officials agreed to settle this case because proof of the cover-up of these horrific crimes would have been made public during the course of this trial," Dorris said in a statement.

The diocese has had several recent high-profile abuse cases. In 2008, the diocese approved a $10 million settlement with 47 plaintiffs who filed sexual abuse lawsuits against 12 current or former priests.

The Rev. Shawn Ratigan is also incarcerated at a federal detention facility in Leavenworth, Kan., after pleading guilty last year to producing child pornography. The diocese also agreed to a $600,000 settlement in a civil lawsuit filed against Ratigan in federal court by the parents of a young Missouri girl.

 


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Comments

Judy Jones July 8, 2013 | 6:47 p.m.

quoted: In these circumstances, the Diocese believes that the settlement is in the best interest of the Teeman family"

--No, the church officials do not want a trial which would expose their crimes of cover up of child sex abuse. They want to keep their secrets and their power.
Thomas OBrien is one of the most prolific and dangerous child predators. Our hearts are with Brian Teeman's family. They have suffered so much, as do many of O'Brien's victims. Yet to this day, sadly he is not in jail for his crimes against innocent children.

We admire the Teemans for their courage in taking action to expose the truth. And we hope this settlement will give them a bit of justice and healing for the loss of their son.
So let's hope that every person who may have knowledge or may have been harmed by O"Brien, will find the courage and strength to speak up and contact police, no matter how long ago the abuse happened.
Silence is not an option anymore, it only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511. snapjudy@gmail.com,
"SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

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