An unidentified Arkansas man is seeking more than $4 million from the Roman Catholic Church of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, the Vatican, other church organizations and a former priest, Christopher Joseph Springer.
John Doe XX alleges in a civil suit in Baton Rouge federal court that Springer “sexually abused, molested, raped and exploited” him when he was a child attending school on the grounds of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Plaquemine.
Springer, 85, now resides in Pearl River, according to the suit. A telephone number for him could not be located Thursday. Attorney Cyrus Greco, who has represented Springer in related cases, did not respond to a request for comment that was left with his office staff.
The Arkansas man’s suit, filed late Wednesday by attorneys Andre Laplace and Felecia Y. Peavy, alleges Springer raped and committed other sexual abuse against children between 1952 and 1972 while he was based in New Orleans.
Springer then transferred to the Baton Rouge diocese, where he continued to abuse boys until at least 1984, the suit alleges.
During that time, the suit says, Springer worked at St. Pius X Catholic Church, Baton Rouge; St. Mary’s of False River Catholic Church; Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Maringouin; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Jackson; Our Lady of the Assumption, Clinton, as well as St. John the Evangelist in Plaquemine.
All are in the Baton Rouge diocese.
State District Court records in Baton Rouge show the diocese has settled claims with several other men who had claimed they were abused by Springer.
Those settlements are sealed.
“We’ve come to an amicable resolution of 19” such cases, Charles Cusimano, attorney for the diocese, said Thursday. In most cases, he added, the victims do not want their identities made public.
If church officials determine abuse occurred in the latest case, Cusimano said, “We’ll follow our sex abuse policy.
“We’re usually able to reach settlements with victims who were abused,” Cusimano said. “We continue to pray for everybody who’s been victimized by sexual abuse. We pray for all of them.”
Two similar cases against Springer were settled out of court in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 2007, federal court records show.
But two other men lost a civil suit against Springer and Catholic organizations in Baton Rouge federal court last year. Their case was dismissed after they testified memories of their alleged abuse at the hands of the former priest have haunted them for years.
U.S. District Judge James J. Brady dismissed the case, saying that Louisiana law does not permit the filing of sex-abuse suits if alleged victims do not go to court within one year after they realize they have been raped or molested.
In June, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld Brady’s ruling.
That panel included Circuit Judges Catharina Haynes and E. Grady Jolly, as well as Chief U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Haynes, Jolly and Vance concluded that sexual-abuse claims cannot be filed in civil court years after an alleged offense has been recalled by a victim.
The exception, the appellate panel noted, is a person with repressed memories. That person can file suit within one year after the time he or she recalls the offense.
In the latest suit against Springer, the unidentified Arkansas man says he was so traumatized by the former priest that he repressed his memories until a year ago, when he read a newspaper account of an alleged confession by Springer.
The suit by John Doe XX has been assigned to Brady.