St. Louis Priest Abuse Case Headed for Trial

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: When the Rev. Joseph D. Ross was assigned to minister at St. Cronan Church, the other priest there already knew his secret.

He heard the pastor coming to help him in 1991 had just returned from the St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., a mental health treatment center for Catholic clergy, according to court filings.

The priest recognized that in all likelihood this was code for Ross having just undergone therapy for a sexual attraction to children. Although the priest worried about the well-being of the parishioners, according to court filings, the Archdiocese of St. Louis assured him that Ross was fit to return to ministry.

Twenty years later, a young woman who attended St. Cronan between 1997 and 2001 would claim she was abused by Ross when she was only 5 or 6 years old, filing a civil lawsuit against the priest and the archdiocese. The alleged victim and perpetrator are set to finally have their day in court when a trial begins next month at the Carnahan Courthouse in downtown St. Louis…

The allegations, while disturbing, are not unheard of in a Roman Catholic Church that has been rocked by the priest abuse scandal for more than a decade. In the St. Louis archdiocese, allegations have been lobbed against numerous priests in recent years, including some who have been convicted of criminal sex abuse.

But the civil suit against Ross stands apart.

In a state that is regarded as one of the most hostile in the nation to priest abuse litigation, the Ross case is poised to become only the second child sexual abuse case against the St. Louis archdiocese to make it to trial. And it would be the first since the priest abuse scandal erupted nationwide in 2002.