(West Central Tribune) WILLMAR – Four women, who were allegedly sexually abused by the Rev. David A. Roney while they were children, are asking the court to allow them to seek punitive damages in a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of New Ulm, St. Francis Parish in Benson and St. Mary’s Parish in Willmar.
In a motion filed Aug. 15, the women are seeking permission to amend the original lawsuit, filed in August 2005 in Brown County Fifth Judicial District Court. The original lawsuit sued the diocese for negligence, but the requested amendments include counts alleging fraud and willful and wanton conduct because there is new evidence proving the church knew Roney was molesting children, according to Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul attorney representing the women.
A hearing on the motion is set Aug. 30. The case is set for trial in January. The diocese has settled two other priest sexual abuse lawsuits involving Roney.
The four women were children and members of their respective Catholic churches, either St. Mary’s Parish in Willmar or St. Francis Parish in Benson, while the alleged abuse happened, the suit states. Roney served as a priest at St. Mary’s between 1967 and 1980 and at St. Francis from 1963 to 1967. He died in 2003.
Anderson points to new evidence that complaints were lodged by three people to the Rev. Francis Garvey, a member of the priest personnel board, regarding sexual abuse by Roney. Those complaints, Anderson claims, prove the church knew Roney was molesting children, yet kept him in ministry without warning the church members or talking to police.
“They turned a blind eye to their kids,” Anderson said. Instead, the church lauded Roney as a “stellar” priest with 50 years of service to the church to save face, he said.
The new evidence is an internal church memo from August 1993, revealed during the legal discovery process, that shows diocesan staff decided not to inform parishioners at the parishes formerly served by Roney that he had sexually abused children.