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Women take Catholic diocese to court over Willmar priest abuse

News Willmar,Minnesota 56201
West Central Tribune
Women take Catholic diocese to court over Willmar priest abuse
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

ST. PAUL -- Two women who say a Willmar Catholic priest abused them as girls said today they are taking church officials to court to prevent future abuses.

“It was the church that was hiding him,” said Jan Hazen, whose daughter, Kim Schmit, was one of two women who went public with their stories.

“It is a seed that grows and grows...” Schmit said of the problems abuse causes. “Somebody shouldn’t have to go through that.”

Schmit and Lori Stoltz are two of about a half dozen women who have filed lawsuits against the Catholic Diocese of New Ulm claiming that the Rev. David Roney sexually abused them when he was a priest in western Minnesota.

Roney died in 2003.

St. Paul lawyer Jeff Anderson said his firm has documented 20 cases of Roney abusing girls and boys, about 15 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Willmar. Another half-dozen were abused in the nearby St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Benson, Anderson said.

The diocese and St. Mary’s did not immediately comment, although in another priest abuse case the diocese said: “The diocese of New Ulm deeply regrets the long-lasting and devastating effects of sexual misconduct on the part of clergy. Such misconduct requires positive action on our part and we have been strengthening our systems and procedures. ...”

Anderson said Roney had a history abuse, some of which had been reported to diocesan officials.

Stoltz and Schmit held pictures of themselves at about the age they say they were abused while they and Anderson discussed the late 1960s incidents. The women’s mothers stood alongside.

The suits ask the diocese to release a list of priests suspected of abusing children. They also seek at least $50,000 in damages.

The women said they did not know the suits asked for money. They said they only want to prevent abuse.

Anderson said the diocese, and Minnesota’s other Catholic dioceses, continue to hide priest abuse and he hopes the Schmit and Stoltz lawsuits, along with others he has filed, will make those lists public.

The attorney has filed thousands of clergy abuse suits around the world.

In Minnesota, all had been dismissed because of a statute of limitations. However, a new law basically removes the time limit, giving victims, what Anderson says, is a new chance.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.