Friday, October 14, 2005

 

Monk not competent in rape case from 1970


CULLMAN, Alabama -- A rape charge against an 83-year-old monk accused of sexually assaulting a prospective nun at St. Bernard's Abbey in 1970 has been dropped after the man was found mentally incompetent to stand trial.

During an emotional hearing Wednesday, Cullman County Circuit Court Judge Frank Brunner dismissed the charge filed last year against Benedictine monk Ignatius Kane, who had denied the allegation.

Psychiatrists for the defense and from the state Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation agreed Kane has incurable dementia.

Anne McInnis, 56, said Kane raped her in the abbey library during a spiritual retreat for women interested in becoming nuns. She did not report the incident at the time and approached Cullman County authorities two years ago.

Kane's defense contended he would have been unable to assault the woman because of the effects of polio.

McInnis tearfully read a statement in the courtroom before Brunner dismissed the charge. "Kane took away my voice," she said. "He took away my desire to be a nun."

"Miss McInnis, justice is not perfect here on this Earth," Brunner said.

Brunner dismissed the charge without prejudice, meaning the Cullman County district attorney's office could seek another indictment if Kane's health improves.

McInnis later held a news conference on the steps of the courthouse, saying she did not remember details of the rape until three years ago because of the trauma of the event.

"I wish the truth could have come out and he could have been held accountable for his crimes," said McInnis, who now attends a Catholic church in Memphis.

"He brutalized everything I held dear about God and the Church," she said."He murdered my soul."

Kane was assigned to help McInnis seal her decision to enter St. Cecilia Convent in Nashville.

Instead, McInnis said she came away from the four-day retreat emotionally brittle, angry at God and unable to even set foot inside a Catholic church. She said images of the rape came rushing back when she tried to return to church about four years ago.

Kane was indicted last year, even though 34 years had passed.

Kane's attorney, Tim Culpepper, said he is disappointed the priest will not get the chance to "completely clear his name" at trial.

"There is no physical evidence of any crime, and basically it is the alleged victim's word against the word of the defendant," he said.

Kane steadfastly has maintained he is not guilty, Culpepper said. "He suffered from polio most of his life," Culpepper said.

"It's so ridiculous," said Frank Kane, the priest's brother. "How could a man who walked with braces and a cane do this? The diameter of his legs all the way up to his thighs is about 2 to 3 inches."

McInnis said Kane, who would have been about 48 at the time of alleged assault, was strong enough to rape her.

She approached Kane's superior, Abbot Cletus Meagher, more than three years ago and says he was sympathetic. "The abbey has been responsive to me in paying for therapy," she said.

Kane has been mostly bedridden for about six years after a series of strokes and will continue to live in his room at the abbey's infirmary, his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Kane said.

Kane declined a face-to-face meeting with McInnis two years ago.

"All I wanted was for him to say he was sorry," she said.


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

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