St. Louis archdiocese sued over clergy abuse

The Associated Press/July 16, 2009

A former parishioner filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing the Archdiocese of St. Louis of failing to remove a priest from the ministry after the parishioner reported he had been sexually abused.

The lawsuit claims the man told the archdiocese in 2005 that Rev. Michael Freymuth had abused him in the 1980s, and the archdiocese said Freymuth would be removed from active ministry. He was not.

The lawsuit names Freymuth, the Archdiocese of St. Louis and its new Archbishop Robert Carlson, who arrived in St. Louis last month. It does not identify the man, and The Associated Press does not usually identify sexual abuse victims.

Bishop Richard Stika, who was named head of the Knoxville, Tenn., diocese earlier this year, was director of child and youth protection for the St. Louis archdiocese in 2005.

Stika, who was traveling Wednesday in New Jersey, said by telephone that a review board that included lay people reviewed the allegations and did not find them credible. Freymuth was allowed to remain in the active ministry based on that finding, he said.

A lawyer from the archdiocese would have told the man's lawyer about the review board's findings, Stika said.

The victim's lawyer, Ken Chackes, did not represent him in 2005. But he said the archdiocese never told the man the review board did not find the allegations credible.

Stika said he didn't have any documentation with him, but he was comfortable that proper procedures had been followed. The archdiocese investigates allegations to the best of its abilities, and "the review board is about protecting God's children," he said.

The archdiocese in St. Louis also has said a panel of lay people determined the 2005 allegations did not constitute sexual abuse. It removed Freymuth from active ministry after learning in January of a potential lawsuit.

Freymuth is staying at a private residence, Monsignor Richard Hanneke said.

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