Four boyhood friends claim abuse by St. Paul Priest; Church denies coverup

Their lawsuit alleges church officials endangered them. Each plaintiff is seeking $50,000 for long-term therapy, plus legal costs.

The four, who still live in Minnesota, also sued the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, charging that the church knew of at least two abuse complaints but did nothing to prevent further violations.Four childhood friends filed suit in Ramsey County on Thursday alleging that they were abused by a priest at their St. Paul church in the early 1970s.

Each plaintiff is seeking $50,000 for long-term therapy, plus legal costs.

The archdiocese denied concealing information.

“We reject any claims of a coverup in the strongest possible terms,” said spokesman Dennis McGrath.

The charges were leveled against the Rev. Thomas Stitts, who died in 1985. At the time of the alleged incidents, he was assigned to St. Leo’s Church in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood. The plaintiffs, who were between 10 and 14 at the time, were members there.

The plaintiffs only recently discovered that they all had been abused, said St. Paul lawyer Patrick Noaker, who represents all four. “They all thought they were the only one, so they kept it secret,” he said.

In addition to money for counseling, the plaintiffs want accountability, Noaker said, adding: “They have a right to information about how this happened and to information about what’s being done so it won’t happen again.”

The archdiocese offers therapy for abuse victims, but McGrath said the plaintiffs “have made no attempt to contact us for the purpose of obtaining assistance. We have openly, repeatedly and broadly encouraged all victims of sexual abuse to contact us.”