More than half a century has passed, but Quin Buchtel says she still is dealing with the effects of being sexually abused by her priest.
Buchtel has long battled what she describes as severe chronic depression — requiring hospitalization at least four times — and said that her life has been marked by a series of "questionable choices."
"I would like to know what my life would've been had I not been abused by this priest," she said. "I don't know if what he did resulted in my anger, which turned ultimately into depression, or not. But I feel that it must've had some impact on my life as an adult."
Buchtel, a 65-year-old social worker living in Olivia, Minn., filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Duluth, alleging that she was abused by the Rev. Charles Gormly in the early 1960s.
Her lawsuit is the fourth filed against the Duluth diocese under the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which opened a three-year window for victims of decades-old abuse to file claims.
Buchtel was about 12 or 13 years old when she was abused by Gormly at St. Francis of Assisi School in Brainerd, according to the suit filed in State District Court in Duluth.
It was an experience shared by many girls at the school, Buchtel said at a news conference in Duluth.
"Father Gormly molested me, but I feel the diocese abused me," she said. "The nuns knew what was going on. They knew I suspected other priests also knew. And, ultimately, the diocese must've known."
Diocese officials confirmed that Gormly did work in Northeastern Minnesota for a brief period in 1960-61. In Duluth, he served at the St. Lawrence and St. Raphael parishes, and lived at St. James, before he was transferred to Brainerd.
Gormly, who was born in Ireland in 1910 and ordained as a priest in 1938, spent most of his career in the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyo. He died in Wisconsin in 1968.
Parishioners at St. Francis were informed of the allegations against Gormly in December, when the diocese was served with a "notice of claim" by attorneys representing Buchtel.
"Every allegation that someone has been harmed by a member of the clergy, including those made today regarding events said to have happened more than 50 years ago, fills us with sadness," the Rev. James Bissonette, vicar general of the Duluth diocese, said in a statement.
"Sexual misconduct of any kind, especially against a child, and especially by someone in a position of trust and respect like a priest, is and always has been evil and incompatible with our beliefs as Catholics," Bissonette added in the statement.
While Gormly's time in the Duluth diocese was short, Brainerd was a frequent stop for priests accused of abuse, said Mike Finnegan, the attorney representing Buchtel. At least eight credibly accused priests worked in the Brainerd area, he said.
"From the stuff we've seen, one of the places the diocese used as a dumping grounds for these perpetrators was Brainerd," Finnegan claimed. "When they had problems with some of these guys, they'd move them to the furthest stretches of the diocese, way on the western side of the diocese."
"Now is the time to come forward"
Buchtel said she was inspired to come forward after she attended a school reunion many years ago. When she sat down with her old friends, the topic quickly turned to Gormly, she said.
"The first thing that came up was, 'Have you thought about what Father Gormly did to us?'" she said. "That was like the main topic of conversation. We talked about how naive we were, that we didn't know that it was wrong. How we knew it was uncomfortable, but we didn't go to our parents. ... Then I started remembering more and more about what happened."
Buchtel said she met with attorney Jeff Anderson in the 1990s, but learned that the statute of limitations to sue had passed. Then, with the Minnesota Legislature opening the window for lawsuits in 2013, she decided to pursue a case once again.
"I just decided that now is the time to come forward," she said. "And I hope that by my coming forward, if this is still going on, it will stop — and that other people that have been abused by priests will feel comfortable coming forward as well."
The five-count suit includes allegations of negligence and nuisance by the diocese. Among the demands, the suit seeks the public release of all internal diocese documents detailing child sexual abuse cases.
The diocese in December 2013 voluntarily released a list of all past priests it considered "credibly accused." However, advocates have continued to push publicly and through the courts for more detailed information.
Diocese officials stressed that they have had safety protocols in place since 1992, and that all employees undergo periodic background checks and training.
"We continue to urge anyone who has suffered abuse to come forward and to use every available tool to ensure our parishes, schools, religious education and youth programs are the safest places for our young people to be," Bissonette said.
Past victims of child sexual abuse have until May 2016 to file suit, and Finnegan said he is anticipating a flurry of legal activity as that deadline approaches.
The diocese was first sued under the statute by former Proctor resident Michael DeRoche in 2013. Additional suits have been filed by unnamed individuals, known in court documents only as Doe 28 and Doe 30.
Verne Wagner, the northern Minnesota director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, attended news conference.
Wagner said there is a need for survivors to come forward, pointing to the recent arrest of a Hibbing priest accused of inappropriately touching three underage girls.
"Those young people came forward and have perhaps saved so many other people from being abused by priests," Wagner said. "The courage that Quin has shown us is inspirational. It's that kind of courage that inspired those young people up in Hibbing to come forward."
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