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Catholic diocese dismissed from Jackson County priest abuse suit

Jackson County judge says she struggled with decision but was bound by recent court rulings.

Updated: 2012-07-25T05:55:41Z

By MARK MORRIS

The Kansas City Star

A Jackson County judge has removed the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph from a civil lawsuit that alleges child sexual abuse by a priest.

In a ruling issued Friday, Circuit Judge Ann Mesle freed the diocese from a suit against the Rev. Michael Tierney by dismissing one count of failure to supervise children and two counts of fraud and fraudulent misrepresentation.

Mesle wrote in her three-page order that she “struggled” with her decision to release the diocese from liability in the case, but said she was bound by other recent court rulings.

Lawyers and spokespersons for parties in the case either did not return calls or declined comment because of a gag order. In the past, Tierney has denied any wrongdoing.

Mesle also dismissed three similar counts against Tierney, though he still faces civil counts of childhood sexual abuse and battery.

The suit alleges that Tierney abused a 13-year-old boy — identified only as John Doe B.P. — in the 1970s. The plaintiff, now in his 50s, alleged that the priest had asked him to move furniture at Tierney’s mother’s house and then fondled and groped him.

In her dismissal orders, Mesle noted that courts have explicitly allowed suits only for negligent failure to supervise children , not intentional failure to supervise, as the suit alleged.

The judge wrote that even if she could determine the legal elements necessary for intentional failure, the case against the diocese still would be vulnerable to recent court rulings, which called for dismissals if the alleged abuse occurred off church property.

Such reasoning led another Jackson County judge in May to dismiss the diocese from a different case against Tierney.

John Doe B.P.’s case garnered national attention earlier this year when lawyers representing Tierney and the diocese insisted on deposing officials of a victim’s support group that was not a party to the suit.

In April, Mesle ordered the support group and its national director to produce records going back more than 20 years.

To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com.

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