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Press Release: Lawsuit says former St. Rose parish priest in Proctor was child sex abuser

6/26/2013 2:25:00 PM

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News Release
June 26, 2013

Lawsuit says former St. Rose parish priest in Proctor was child sex abuser
Arizona man seeks to have Court order the Diocese of Duluth to release the names of the 17 priests the Diocese knows were accused of sexually molesting minors

New Minnesota Child Victims Act allows victim to file lawsuit for abuse committed when he was a child in Proctor

(Duluth & Brainerd, MN) – Attorneys for a 55-year-old Arizona man filed a lawsuit in St. Louis County today claiming that beginning in the early 1960s officials of the Diocese of Duluth knew a parish priest assigned to St. Rose Parish in Proctor, Minnesota, Father John Nicholson, was sexually abusing children but failed to report the abuse to law enforcement or take action to keep the priest from harming other children.

The lawsuit seeks to have the names of the priests accused of sexually molesting children made public.  In 2004 the Diocese of Duluth admitted that it had the names of 17 priests who had been accused of sexually molesting minors in the Diocese of Duluth.

The Plaintiff, identified as John Doe 5 to protect his privacy, appeared at a press conference in Duluth today and said, “I am here today to make sure that children are safe and let survivors know that they now have a chance at justice.   Children can’t be safe without the Diocese coming clean about what it knows about abuse in this Diocese.   That should start with the Diocese releasing the names of the 17 priests it knows were accused of sexually molesting children.”

Also at the press conference, Mike Finnegan, an attorney for the Jeff Anderson & Associates in St. Paul, who is representing Doe 5, explained that the lawsuit claims that the Diocese’s failure to take any action, such as reporting to law enforcement or warning parish families about the priest, caused his client to be abused.  “They choose to protect themselves and avoid scandal over protecting children in their care from harm.  For that, this courageous survivor deserves justice and accountability.”

Finnegan said that Nicholson, who died in 1988, was assigned to seven different parishes in northeastern Minnesota between 1948 and 1988.  “Given the access he had to children in all these places, it concerns us that he may have abused others.  Our hope is that if there are other victims of this man, they know that they can come forward confidentially and begin a journey of help and healing,” Finnegan added.

The lawsuit was filed under the new Child Victims Act passed in May allowing survivors of child sexual abuse an opportunity to hold their abuser accountable in court along with any institution that may have helped facilitate the abuse. The act includes a three-year window of opportunity for survivors abused in the past to file claims, and moving forward, it eliminates the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in Minnesota.

Parishes where Father Nicholson served include:

Duluth, MN – St. James - 1948 to 1953
Grand Rapids, MN – St. Joseph’s – 1953 to 1956
Hill City and Swatara, MN – St. John’s – 1956 to 1960
Deer River, MN – St. Mary’s – 1960 to 1966
Cohasset, MN – St. Augustine – 1960 to 1966
Proctor, MN – St. Rose – 1966 to 1970
Deerwood, MN – St. Joseph’s – 1970 to 1988

Father Nicholson also worked for the Diocese of Duluth as its Director of Scouting (Boy Scouts) from 1948 to 1961 and as a Director of Vocations (recruiting children and/or young adults).

Contact Mike Finnegan: Office/651.227.9990 Cell/612.205.5531

Mike Finnegan, is an attorney with Jeff Anderson and Associates, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based law firm representing survivors throughout Minnesota and the country.  Finnegan has represented hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse by authority figures and clergy.  

A copy of the complaint is available at: www.andersonadvocates.com