Man Files Lawsuit Against Diocese of Duluth

By KBJR News 1

June 26, 2013 Updated Jun 26, 2013 at 8:35 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - A man, who claims as a child, he was sexually abused by a priest, has filed suit against the Catholic Diocese of Duluth, under Minnesota's new Child Victims Act.

Michael DeRoche says he was abused by Father John Nicholson, who has since died.

He was abused when he attended St. Rose in Proctor between the ages of 9 and 10.

The lawsuit claims the Diocese knew, or should have known, that Nicholson was a danger to children and should have stepped in to protect his victims.

In a written statement the Diocese said, "It deeply regrets any long-lasting and devastating effects of sexual misconduct on the part of the clergy and is committed to assisting victims and preventing future abuse."

DeRoche is asking the Diocese to release the names of 16 other priests in the diocese who have been accused of sexually molesting minors.

"We don't know any of the places where they are today, we don't know where they are working, kids are at risk because these names are not made public," said Mike Finnegan, Attorney on the case.

"It was this little guy that was hurt for over a year by a priest, and it's not to seek vendetta or vengeance or hurt, but its to find healing and hope for not only myself and closure but for all the other kids out there," said DeRoche.

Verne Wagner, the Northern Director of the Survivor Network of Those Abused by Priests, also known as "Snap," took part in today's news conference in support of his friend and former classmate.

Wagner is also a survivor of sex abuse from the priest.

Deroche's lawsuit is the first to be filed in St. Louis County under the new law.

The Minnesota Child Victims Act was signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton on May 25.

The Act eliminates the civil statute of limitations for children who were sexually abused and allows a three year window for past victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits against their perpetrator and/or institution that may have allowed the abuse.

Father Nicholson was employed by the Diocese from 1948 to 1988.

RESPONSE FROM THE DIOCESE:

June 26, 2013

Diocese of Duluth responds to lawsuit

The Diocese of Duluth has been named in a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of a minor by Father John Nicholson, a deceased priest of the Diocese of Duluth, dating back to the late 1960s. The lawsuit was filed June 24 in the Sixth Judicial District Court of the State of Minnesota, made possible by new legislation that allows lawsuits on allegations that were previously beyond the statute of limitations. The lawsuit names the Diocese of Duluth as the defendant.

Father Nicholson worked in the diocese as a priest from 1948 to 1988. He served at the following parishes: St. James in Duluth, St. Joseph in Grand Rapids, St. John in Hill City, St. James in Swatara, St. Mary in Deer River, St. Augustine in Cohasset, St. Rose in Proctor and St. Joseph in Deerwood. He also served as diocesan Director of Scouting. He died in 1988.

The Diocese of Duluth instituted a sexual misconduct policy in 1992. The initial lawsuit regarding Father Nicholson was filed in August 1993. After meeting with pastors who had followed Father Nicholson as pastor, Bishop Roger Schwietz, then Bishop of Duluth, appealed through parish bulletins for any victims of sexual abuse to report it.

The outreach seeking to identify and help any potential victims was expanded in 1995 by Bishop Schwietz, including extensive local media coverage. In 2003, Bishop Dennis Schnurr, then Bishop of Duluth, also engaged in an outreach seeking to identify and assist any victims of clergy sexual abuse in the diocese.

Bishop Schwietz also offered the plaintiff counseling and other assistance.

The Diocese of Duluth deeply regrets the long-lasting and devastating effects of sexual misconduct on the part of clergy and is completely committed to assisting its victims and preventing any recurrence of these crimes. The misconduct policy put in place has been strengthened and revised over time, including with reference to the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” established in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Diocese of Duluth has through these programs and policies established a safe environment program which requires background checks for those who work with children and mandatory reporting requirements, as well as education for clergy, teachers, parents and students to help them identify and prevent sexual misconduct.

The Diocese of Duluth urges anyone who has been a victim of such despicable crimes to report it to the civil authorities and to the diocese at 2830 E. 4th Street, Duluth, MN 55812; at (218) 724-9111; or through one of the Diocesan Assistance Coordinators whose contact information is available on the diocesan website, www.dioceseduluth.org.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.
kanderson@kbjr.com