Priest Accused in Edina Brothers’ Sexual Assault

By ROSE FRENCH, Star Tribune

Four brothers from Edina filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis claiming they are among the victims who were sexually abused for years by a Twin Cities priest.

The St. Paul law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates filed the suit in Ramsey County District Court on behalf of the brothers, who say from 1967 to 1973, when they were 7 to 14 years of age, they were sexually assaulted by the Rev. Thomas Stitts, a priest who at the time was assigned to Our Lady of Grace church in Edina.

The lawsuit is the fourth complaint concerning Stitts brought against the archdiocese by the Anderson law firm, which specializes in clergy abuse suits. The lawsuits seek damages from the archdiocese for a total of 11 victims.

All the suits charge that the archdiocese knew of abuse complaints against Stitts in the late 1960s and early ’70s but did nothing to prevent further abuse. Stitts was employed by the archdiocese from 1962 through 1985, when he died.

The archdiocese has denied that it covered up reports about the priest’s alleged conduct. Archdiocese spokesman Dennis McGrath said in a statement Wednesday that the archdiocese “is always deeply saddened to learn about reports of clergy sexual abuse.”

“These reports were never brought to us. These plaintiffs never told us of these alleged offenses nor did they seek our assistance for any therapy or counseling,” McGrath said. “We are mandatory reporters and have openly, repeatedly and broadly encouraged all victims of sexual abuse to contact us as we have offered assistance to such victims for many years.”

Patrick Noaker, an attorney for the victims, said he believes there are “probably more victims out there, but I hope there aren’t. It sure seems as if Father Stitts was an incredibly prolific abuser.”

The plaintiffs in the latest suit, who are not identified, served as altar boys at Our Lady of Grace when the alleged abuse occurred. Each is seeking in excess of $50,000 for long-term therapy, plus legal costs.

In addition to Our Lady of Grace, Stitts also served at St. Leo’s (now Lumen Christi) in the Highland Park area of St. Paul. Lawsuits filed earlier this year allege he sexually assaulted several altar boys there, at Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul and Guardian Angels in Hastings.

Rose French • 612-673-4352