INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (CN) – Parents say a priest’s repeated sexual abuse of their son drove the teen-ager to commit suicide, and that the Diocese did not “admonish” the priest until 25 years after the boy’s death.
Donald and Rosemary Teeman say their son, Brian, shot himself in 1983 while he was a freshman at Archbishop O’Hara High School after prolonged abused by Monsignor Thomas O’Brien.
“On several occasions, Msgr. O’Brien forced decedent and three other boys into the changing area in the sacristy at Nativity Church,” the complaint states. “He would shove them into the rack on which the robes were hung and make them perform oral sex and mutual masturbation on each other, then require them to perform those acts on him.
“Following the sexual encounters, he would require them to change into their robes, prepare communion, and serve at the Mass.”
The parents say O’Brien used faith-based guilt to keep his victims quiet.
“Defendant O’Brien forced silence on the decedent and the other boys by telling them that they would be kicked out of the Catholic Church, they would go directly to hell and their parents would disown them,” the complaint states. “He reinforced those statements in the confessional.”
The Teemans claim the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph caused their son’s death because officials knew O’Brien was sexually abusing boys but covered it up.
The complaint in Jackson County Court paints a picture of decades of abuse by O’Brien and subsequent coverups by the church.
Complaints about O’Brien’s conduct came as early as 1972 and he was required to send a letter of apology to a young boy’s parents in 1979 due to his abuses, the Teemans say.
Despite the 1972 complaints, the Diocese simply moved him to Nativity Parish, where he continued to have contact with young boys, including Brian Teeman, according to the complaint.
O’Brien worked as a part-time hospital chaplain from 1984 to 2002 at St. Joseph’s Hospital, until he was removed after more sexual abuse allegations surfaced. He continued to perform sacraments at the Kansas City Hospice until 2004, when a physician on staff reported him to administration, according to the complaint.
“In 2008, approximately 40 years after Msgr. O’Brien was first admonished for sexually abusing boys, the Diocese issued a statement that he is performing no duties on behalf of the Diocese,” the complaint states.
“Msgr. O’Brien remains a priest, albeit with faculties to perform public service, in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.”
O’Brien faces more than two dozen lawsuits accusing him of sexual abuse. The Teemans say they only recently found out about the abuse from a classmate and fellow altar boy with Brian. They say that due to the nature of the offense, statute of limitations should not apply.
“Defendants acted with depraved hearts knowing harm would occur, including the damages to plaintiffs described herein and other similarly situated children,” the complaint states. “Defendants knew or should have known this outrageous behavior would cause emotional distress to the families of the victims, including plaintiffs. … Defendants’ conduct communicated to plaintiffs and other victims that their conduct was proper and that legal action was not necessary. Therefore, defendants knew or should have known, that their actions would silence plaintiffs and other victims, prevent them from discovering their injuries, their complaints or possible other complaints or victims, and ultimately exacerbate their emotional distress and trauma. Defendants should therefore be estopped from asserting any defense that plaintiffs’ action is not timely because defendants individually and in concert with each other, fraudulently concealed the wrongfulness of defendant O’Brien’s, and other priests’ conduct and the causal relationship of the harm suffered by plaintiffs.”
The Teemans seek punitive damages from the Diocese and O’Brien, for fraud and conspiracy, breach of duty, fraudulent misrepresentation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, failure to supervise, wrongful death and sexual abuse of a child.
They are represented by Rebecca Randles with Randles Mata & Brown, of Kansas City, Mo.