Teen Blames Catholic Church for 'Forcible Rape'

PHOENIX (CN) - After raping a teenager, a Catholic youth leader promised he would stop raping girls if she didn't tell police, so she kept quiet - but he broke his promise and sexually assaulted her friend, his first alleged victim claims in court.
     Maraen Foley claims in the lawsuit that Catholic youth leader Brandon Eckerson forcibly raped her two days before Christmas in 2012. She was 18.
     Eckerson "convinced plaintiff not to say anything further to anyone about his sexual exploitation of her; in exchange he promised to never again sexually assault anyone. It was understood that if plaintiff discovered he violated this sworn promise she would go to the police," Foley claims in the complaint in Maricopa County Court.
     She says he broke that promise: that in June this year she learned that he had recently sexually assaulted another girl in the program, so she went to police.
     She claims in the lawsuit that Eckerson's bosses at the highest level of the Diocese knew of the rape but did not report it to law enforcement because Vatican policy threatened them with excommunication if they did.
     She sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix; its Bishop, the most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted; the Rev. Patrick Robinson, priest at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Scottsdale, supervisor of the church's CORE program; and Eckerson, who worked for CORE.
     Foley claims in the lawsuit that Eckerson, as leader of her CORE group, asked her about "her life, seeking intimate details, including dating and sexual relationships." She says Eckerson's meetings included "permissive sexual dialogue, contact, spanking, slapping, gropings and ridicule."
     Eckerson took his group off church grounds to bars and restaurants, where alcohol was served to minors, including her, Foley claims in the lawsuit. She says that if the bars refused to serve minors, alcohol was brought back to the Blessed Sacrament campus, where they drank it.
     "Brandon Eckerson's inappropriate sexual exploitation culminated in the forcible rape of plaintiff on December 23, 2012," the complaint states.
     She says she told a doctor about the rape, "who in compliance with state law sent notice to Blessed Sacrament Parish, which circulated an email on the subject." Blessed Sacrament's priest, defendant Robinson, "knew that Brandon Eckerson was a danger to the volunteer members of the CORE Program," and "shared that concern with other members of Blessed Sacrament Parish and the Phoenix Diocese," but the Parish and Diocese failed to report him to police, to civil authorities, or to parishioners, and let Eckerson keep leading the youth group, Foley says in the complaint.
     After he raped her, Foley claims, "Brandon Eckerson contacted plaintiff and affirmatively stated that he would lie to church authorities about what happened."
     The lawsuit continues: "Through manipulation, lies and deceit, Brandon Eckerson convinced plaintiff not to say anything further to anyone about his sexual exploitation of her; in exchange he promised to never again sexually assault anyone. It was understood that if plaintiff discovered he violated this sworn promise she would go to the police."
     Foley says she was close friends with other members of the group, one of whom told her in June this year that Eckerson had "recently sexually assaulted her."
     Foley reported him to police, who arrested Eckerson in July and criminally charged him, according to the complaint.
     It adds: "Then, and only then, did the Diocese terminate him from the CORE program."
     Foley claims the defendants knew Eckerson was a danger to youth even before he raped her. But "The Diocese had a policy of concealment in response to discovery of sexual exploitation," the complaint states.
     It continues: "There is a 1962 'confidential' policy document issued by the Vatican to all Catholic Bishops, including the Archbishop of the Diocese, [which] instructed that allegations or incidents of sexual misconduct were to be maintained in the 'strictest' secrecy, and threatened those who violated this policy with excommunication. The 1962 policy evolved from an earlier 1922 document, which, in turn, was based on policies and practices of the Catholic Church dating back to the Middle Ages."
     Foley seeks punitive damages for negligence, outrage, breach of fiduciary duty, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and past and future medical care.
     She is represented by J. Tyrrell Taber, with Aiken Schenk Hawkins & Ricciardi.