A northwest Missouri abbey has settled for $415,000 a lawsuit alleging coverup of sexual abuse by a former monk who directed its boys choir in the 1980s.
The lawsuit, filed against Conception Abbey by former choirboy Jim Luke, was settled this month, court records show. Luke’s attorney, Rebecca Randles, confirmed the settlement amount.
Luke, who now lives in Oregon, filed the lawsuit in Nodaway County Circuit Court in 2011 under the name John Doe 48. But he said he thought it was important to come forward now.
“I don’t know if people realize the lifelong damage that this does to a person,” Luke told The Star. “It completely ruins your trust in people. The shame and the guilt, it just weighs on a person.
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“But I’m hoping that maybe by coming forth and acknowledging what they did and that we finally got justice, maybe I can provide some hope and support for others.”
Conception Abbey officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Benedictine monastery in Conception, Mo., is home to one of the largest Roman Catholic college seminaries in the nation and draws students from about two dozen dioceses in the United States. Conception Seminary College has educated nearly 75 percent of the active diocesan priests in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and about 31 percent of those in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, according to its website.
The lawsuit alleged that Bede Parry, a Benedictine monk, sexually abused Luke in the early 1980s when Luke was a minor. At the time, Parry taught the boy piano lessons and led the Abbey Boy Choir of Conception Abbey.
The suit alleged the inappropriate behavior began when Luke started taking piano lessons from Parry in 1982 and also occurred when Luke attended choir camp at the abbey. Parry forced sexual favors from the boy, the lawsuit alleged, and performed sexual acts on him on at least a half-dozen occasions over a span of 18 months.
The abbey knew Parry had sexually abused other students before abusing Luke but kept it quiet, the suit claimed.
In a 2011 interview with The Star, Parry admitted having inappropriate sexual contact with several members of the Abbey Boy Choir from 1982 to 1987, when he directed the group.
That revelation came when The Star contacted Parry for a response to a lawsuit filed by another choir member who contended that Parry sexually abused him in 1987 during a summer camp at the abbey.
Parry also confirmed to The Star three relationships between 1973 and 1979 at Conception Abbey and one in 1981 in Minnesota. He said he reported those incidents to the abbot at Conception Abbey and the abbot at St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota. Parry attended St. John’s University School of Theology from 1979 through 1982.
“I had to go to counseling and was told not to do anything like that again,” he said, adding that the counseling was required for him to graduate from St. John’s.
After graduation, Parry said, he returned to Conception Abbey, where he became director of the boys choir.
“Frankly, those allegations, most of them are true,” Parry said in the 2011 phone interview with The Star. “As far as I’m concerned, great harm was done to those people. To lie and not recognize that would be a gross injustice to those folks.
“The whole thing is terrible. I feel so terrible. I’m just praying for everybody, and I ask for prayers.”
Most of the inappropriate sexual contact was with males over 18, Parry said. Two of the encounters, he said, involved males ages 16 to 18. He said that he was forced to leave Conception Abbey in 1987 because of the incidents and that he had not had inappropriate sexual relations since.
Parry became an Episcopal priest in 2004 and was music director and assisting priest at All Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas at the time the lawsuits were filed in 2011. He resigned his position with the Episcopal church after the allegations from Conception Abbey came to light and died in 2013 at age 71.
Luke said he’s relieved that his case has been resolved.
“But I still struggle to this day,” he said. “I feel bad that I didn’t have the strength to come forward at the time. He hurt a lot of people. I still have nightmares sometimes, I unfortunately cry myself to sleep sometimes. But you just take it one day at a time.”