Jesuit Teacher and Coach, Fr. James Sinnerud, Publicly Named as Perpetrator for First Time
Third Lawsuit Brought This Month Under Arizona CVA by Survivors Represented by Attorneys Jeff Anderson & Robert Pastor
(Phoenix, AZ) – Today, another courageous survivor of sexual abuse filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Phoenix under HB2466 / Arizona’s Child Victims Act (CVA). The lawsuit, brought by a man identified as John RK Doe, alleges Father James Sinnerud, S.J. sexually abused him when he was a student at Brophy College Preparatory, an all-male Jesuit high school in Phoenix. Fr. Sinnerud is a Jesuit priest who was assigned to Brophy Prep in the 1980s, where he worked as a teacher and coach. This is the first time Sinnerud has been publicly identified as a perpetrator of child sexual abuse in Arizona.“By coming forward and identifying a previously unknown Arizona offender, this survivor is taking a meaningful step to protect our children and foster healing for those who are suffering in silence, wondering if they are alone,” said attorney Robert Pastor of the Arizona-based law firm Montoya, Lucero & Pastor. “Too often the Catholic Church and its leadership remain deliberately ignorant of clergy sexual misconduct. If Church leadership wants to fulfill its pledge to protect children, they must stop concealing abuse and start shielding children from harm. We applaud this survivor for having the courage to come forward and do the work the Catholic Church has failed to do.”
John RK Doe’s lawsuit is possible because of the Arizona Child Victims Act, which went into effect in May 2019. The law extends the time limit for sexual abuse survivors to bring lawsuits against perpetrators and the institutions that protected them. The law gives survivors until December 30, 2020 to bring lawsuits in cases that were previously barred by the statute of limitations, no matter when the abuse occurred.
John RK Doe is the third child sexual abuse survivor represented by the law firms of Jeff Anderson & Associates and Montoya, Lucero & Pastor to bring a lawsuit against the Diocese of Phoenix this month under the Arizona CVA.
“The Arizona Child Victims Act has provided an opportunity for John RK Doe and numerous other courageous survivors to speak out about the horrors they suffered then and now,” said Jeff Anderson of Jeff Anderson & Associates. “We are honored to stand with him and them. It’s time for a reckoning in the Diocese of Phoenix. It’s time for the Bishop to come clean.”
In 2018 the Jesuits removed Fr. Sinnerud from another Jesuit Prep School in Omaha, Nebraska after sexual abuse allegations against him came to light.
Fr. Sinnerud became a member of the Jesuits in 1960 and worked at Brophy Prep from 1980 to 1987. Following his abuse of John RK Doe, Fr. Sinnerud left or was removed by Church officials from Brophy in 1987. “Sinnerud’s departure from Brophy was likely precipitated by a particular incident of abuse,” said Pastor. “The timing is consistent with the common practice of Church officials moving perpetrators from place-to-place to cover up clergy sexual misconduct.”
Fr. Sinnerud went on to teach at Creighton Prep, a Jesuit School in Omaha (NE), from 1987 until his retirement in 2008. Even after Fr. Sinnerud retired, he stayed at Creighton Prep working as a substitute teacher and prefect, among other duties. In 2018 Creighton Prep officials announced they removed Fr. Sinnerud due to sexual abuse allegations in his past. No details were given about the allegations except that they predated Fr. Sinnerud’s time in Omaha. Fr. Sinnerud does not appear on any list published by the Phoenix Diocese or Jesuits in Arizona of abusive priests. Sinnerud’s current whereabouts are unknown.
Fr. Sinnerud brings the tally of known abusive priests and clerics who have worked in the Diocese of Phoenix to 110.
Last year, the law firm of Jeff Anderson & Associates, working with Robert Pastor, released a report containing the identities, histories, and photographs of 109 Catholic clerics accused of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Phoenix. The firms reported at the time that one of the most shocking findings among their discoveries in collecting the data for the report was evidence that some perpetrators were transferred and retained in trusted positions with direct access to children even after Church leadership knew they were alleged abusers.
Anderson and Pastor say that modern means of analysis, evidence uncovered in other litigation, and the growing movement of survivors reclaiming their voices is exposing perpetrators who operated in the geographical boundaries of this Diocese. “Until the Diocese fulfills its promise of transparency and accountability children remain in grave danger,” said Anderson.
The sexual abuse of children has long been a crime in Arizona. However, Church officials chose and continue choosing to keep these crimes hidden, allowing priests continued and unfettered access to children. In 2003, Bishop Thomas O’Brien (Bishop of Phoenix 1982-2003) admitted in a written agreement with criminal prosecutors that he allowed priests under his supervision to continue to work with children after becoming aware of allegations they had sexually abused minors. It is unknown how many children were sexually abused in the Diocese of Phoenix as a result of these dangerous practices and the systemic cover-up of clergy sexual abuse.