Man's lawsuit accuses former Catholic priest of sexually abusing him in early 1980s

Kansas City Star/October 4, 2011

New sexual abuse allegations emerged Tuesday in a lawsuit filed against the Kansas City St. Joseph Diocese and a former Roman Catholic priest.

The lawsuit, filed by an unidentified 39-year-old man, alleges that Stephen Wise of Lee's Summit — who left the clergy in 1986 — sexually abused the plaintiff for two years between the ages of 10 and 12. The lawsuit also alleges that a former bishop was told that Wise was sexually abusing children one to two years before the plaintiff was molested but took no action to stop it.

Filed in Jackson County Circuit Court, the civil suit was announced at a news conference by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. It seeks unspecified damages.

According to the lawsuit, Wise befriended the plaintiff in the early 1980s when he was attending school in Our Lady of the Presentation parish in Lee's Summit, recruiting him to be an altar boy and assuming the role of father figure.

The plaintiff is currently serving time in prison for an adult sex crime.

The plaintiff's sister attended the news conference but did not speak. In a statement, she said that "my brother's life has been taken from him."

"He has a lot of anger, frustration, hurt, abandonment out of all of this," she said.

Wise could not be reached for comment. The diocese said in a statement that Wise was ordained in 1979 and that his pastoral assignments included the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City, Our Lady of the Presentation Parish and St. Gregory Barbarigo Parish in Maryville, Mo.

Wise resigned from all diocesan assignments in 1986 and was married in a civil ceremony that year, the diocese said.

"Since 1986, Stephen Wise has not held any ministerial assignment in the diocese," the statement said. "He currently is the subject of a process seeking formal dismissal from the clerical state through church courts."

Wise is one of 12 priests or former priests who were the subjects of a $10 million settlement that the diocese reached in 2008 with 47 plaintiffs who had filed sexual abuse lawsuits. As part of the settlement, the diocese agreed to formally remove Wise and two other clergy from the priesthood through church courts, a process called laicization.

The lawsuit is the second to be filed against Wise. In 2008 an anonymous plaintiff alleged that Wise molested him at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the late 1970s. The plaintiff, who was 37 when the lawsuit was filed, contended that the abuse lasted for about four years.

It was a part of the 2008 settlement.

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