Corpus Christi Diocese Hit With Priest-Abuse Suit

The Houston Press/March 11, 2010

A Corpus Christi man is suing the Catholic Diocese of Corpus Christi for sexual abuse he says he suffered at the hands of a priest who died in 2008.

Identified only as "John Doe," the plaintiff says Thomas Meaney began abusing him in 1971, when he was 17. Per the lawsuit, filed last week, the plaintiff has a history of mental illness and was released from Austin State Hospital shortly before the abuse started.

When the man brought his claim to the Bishop Edmond Carmody in May 2008, according to the suit, the Bishop "minimized the damage, offered counseling at the Church's expense up to $3,000, some religious artifact blessed by the Pope, and harshly advised that plaintiff should forgive and move on...." Meaney died two months after the man spoke with Carmody.

Houston attorney Dan Shea, who's representing the plaintiff, told Hair Balls that Carmody's alleged offerings were "so atrocious a response as to constitute a reinjuring of the plaintiff," and added that Carmody "ought to be ashamed of himself."

The lawsuit claims that, as Meaney's employer, the Diocese was responsible for his actions. Shea says the Diocese should have offered to cover extensive counseling for his client.

In a prepared statement, the Diocese said that "any allegations of misconduct made against clergy, church workers and employees of the Diocese are always taken seriously and fully investigated. The alleged incident...occurred more [than] 38 years ago, at which time...both parties were adults. The alleged perpetrator has since passed away. When informed of the allegations, the Diocese immediately furnished all information to the district attorney, who declined to prosecute the case."

The also add that "arrangements were made for [Shea] to review Msgr. Meany's personnel file in person.... he declined."

Shea says his client's age is irrelevant, given that the allegation is sexual assault. He also says the Diocese denied his requests for Meaney's personnel file. We're still waiting to hear from the Nueces County DA's Office.

Per the suit, the abuse began when the plaintiff went to Corpus Christi to look for a job on a fishing boat, and wound up at Holy Cross Rectory, "seeking money and a place to stay." The plaintiff met Meaney, who allegedly helped him get a job. Meaney then allegedly took the man "to a deserted beach at Port Aransas and initiated oral and anal sex upon the plaintiff. Plaintiff was told that the sex was 'payback' for the meal at the rectory" and the introduction to his future boss.

The alleged abuse occurred until 1982, "at the very least," according to the suit.

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