NEW ULM - The Diocese of New Ulm has been named as a defendant in a second lawsuit that accuses the diocese of failing to protect parishioners from sexual abuse from a priest that it should have known was a sexual predator.
The lawsuit was filed in Ramsey County Monday on behalf of a defendant identified as John Doe 107, now an adult residing in Colorado. The suit names the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of New Ulm.
The lawsuit claims the plaintiff was sexually abused by the Rev. William J. Marks, who was a priest in the two dioceses from 1948 to 1979. Marks, who died in November 1979, was assigned to parishes including St. Dionysus in Tyler, St. John's Catholic Church in Hector, and St. Clotilde in Green Valley. All were located within the Archdiocese until 1959, when the Diocese of New Ulm was formed.
The suit alleges that the plaintiff was abused by Fr. Marks from 1957 to 1960, when he was 10 to 14 years old and served as an altar boy at St. John's in Hector. The plaintiff said Marks would hug the boy hard, and slide his hands into and over the boy's pants, usually before and after mass when the boy was changing into or out of his altar boy robes.
The Diocese of New Ulm issued a statement Monday saying it will be investigating the claims in the new lawsuit but has no facts to report about the claims at this time.
"The Diocese of New Ulm deeply regrets the long-lasting and devastating effects of sexual misconduct on the part of clergy," the statement said. "Such misconduct requires positive action on our part, and we have been strengthening our systems and procedures in order to address this grave issue by following the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," established in June 2002."
The lawsuit claims that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and later the Diocese of New Ulm should have been aware of Marks' "sexual misconduct, impulses and behavior," and failed to protect the plaintiff and other potential victims, from harm.
The suit seeks monetary damages in excess of $50,000
Patrick Noacker, attorney with the Noacker Law Firm in Minnetonka that filed the suit, said he did not have information indicating whether there had been previous complaints about Marks that would have given the diocese knowledge of Marks' activities.
Noacker is the same attorney that filed a suit in June 2013 naming the diocese as a defendant for abuse allegedly committed by another priest, the Rev. Francis Markey, when he was pastor of St. Joseph's Parish in Henderson in 1982.
In its statement, the Diocese of New Ulm said it has been "diligent in its efforts to establish a safe environment program that educates clergy, teachers, parents, and students, and that helps them identify and prevent sexual misconduct. We are committed to offering help and healing to anyone who has been a victim of sexual misconduct and to preventing this terrible crime from occurring in the diocese."
The diocese asks anyone who has suffered sexual abuse, exploitation, or harassment by a priest, deacon, pastor, or pastoral administrator of the Diocese of New Ulm to report the misconduct to the Victim Assistance Coordinator or the Bishop's Delegate in Matters Pertaining to Sexual Misconduct, 1400 6th Street North, New Ulm, MN 56073; phone: 507-359-2966.