Thursday, October 06, 2005

 

Archdiocese settles abuse claim


St. Paul, Minnesota - The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has reached an out-of-court settlement with a Wisconsin woman who alleged she was sexually abused by a White Bear Lake priest more than two decades ago.

Anne Bonse, 33, of Glenwood City, Wis., said she was molested between the ages of 5 and 11 by Gilbert Gustafson, then a priest at St. Mary of the Lake Catholic Church.

In a lawsuit filed in November 2002, she also alleged she was "re-victimized" by a "callous, dismissive and inadequate" response in February 2000, when she told the Rev. Kevin McDonough, the archdiocese's chief of staff, of the alleged abuse. Additionally, she claimed that Archbishop Harry Flynn refused to meet with her to discuss the case.

As part of a settlement — announced Wednesday by Bonse and her attorney, family and friends in front of church headquarters — the archdiocese agreed to apologize in writing to Bonse, who also will receive an undisclosed amount of cash. The suit had sought at least $50,000.

The archdiocese also agreed to incorporate material from an abuse-survivors support group into its training materials. Such "non-economic" concessions are rare in such settlements, said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

"The only thing I ever wanted was to be taken seriously, to be believed and to have Gilbert Gustafson removed from the priesthood and any active ministry in the church,'' Bonse said.

Gustafson, who in 1982 pleaded guilty to criminal charges of abusing an altar boy at St. Mary's, was permanently removed from ministry in 2002, as required by the U.S. Catholic bishops' passage of a clergy abuse policy that June.

After his conviction, Gustafson had worked for Catholic Charities and in diocesan administrative jobs and ministered to a community of cloistered nuns in Bloomington, according to the archdiocese.

The archdiocese three years ago said Gustafson admitted to past offenses against young boys but denied abusing Bonse.

On Wednesday, archdiocesan attorney Tom Wieser said Flynn would have met with Bonse one-on-one or with a counselor or family member present, but that the archbishop "would not get drawn into an attorney-orchestrated media event.''

Bonse's invitation to meet with Flynn occurred at a news conference arranged by her attorney, Jeffrey Anderson, in October 2002.

Wieser said McDonough came to understand how Bonse hadn't felt welcome when they met in 2000 because he was unclear what she was asking.

Andy Eisenzimmer, another archdiocesan attorney, said McDonough was trying to explain remedies the archdiocese could provide for her, and "she apparently took that as a brush-off. … He can see now why she feels that way.''

The archdiocese three years ago said in a statement that Bonse's allegations "were both vague and inconsistent with the known offense pattern of the priest involved.''

Anderson, however, produced a 1988 letter from Bishop Robert Carlson to Archbishop John Roach stating Gustafson also was inclined to "some inappropriate sexual acting out" with late adolescent women, as well.

"Anne would never have gone through the five years of humiliation she has simply to make up a lie,'' said her mother, Jan Fredericks. "We're trying to hang on to our faith, and at the same time feel betrayed.''


See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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