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Woman Can’t Sue Church for Rape by Priest in 1987

(CN) - A woman who claimed to have unearthed repressed memories of being raped decades ago by a now deceased priest cannot sue a Catholic diocese because her claims are barred by the statute of limitations, the 8th Circuit ruled.

Before Pamela Baye and her husband, Sylvan, sued the diocese of Rapid City, S.D., in 2007, she had a long history of abuse and mental illness.

Baye claimed she developed dissociative identity disorder, which is the clinical term for multiple personality disorder, after being abused by both parents and other men since the age of 3. She also claims to have suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, depression, insomnia, panic disorder, anxiety disorder and suicidal ideation. "According to Baye, she has had as many as 40 different personalities," Judge Diana Murphy wrote for the St. Louis-based federal appeals panel. "She has sometimes suffered loss of time and memory when one of the alternate personalities would appear during a traumatic event."

When Baye was 23 years old in 1987, she says she sought counseling from the Rev. Christopher Scadron, a 67-year-old priest at Sacred Heart Church in Rapid City. "During one of their meetings, Scadron raped Baye while they were kneeling at the altar," according to the court's summary of Baye's claims. "During and immediately after the assault, Scadron told Baye that if she told anyone about it her children would die and go to hell."

"Baye repressed her memory of the assault and rediscovered it only in 2006 when one of Baye's alternate personalities revealed it to a friend," the ruling states. "Baye's friend then told Baye's therapist who informed Baye."

Since Scadron had died in 2002, the Bayes sued the church's diocese for breach of fiduciary duty, fiduciary fraud, and negligent hiring, supervision, and retention.

They appealed when a federal judge dismissed the suit under the statute of limitations, and the 8th Circuit affirmed on Jan. 25.

The court's three-judge panel found that Maye's window to sue for assault expired after two years, and after three years for the other claims. Even accounting for a five-year extension given to plaintiffs who were suffering from a mental illness, the statute of limitations had still expired.

Baye argued that the clock should not have started running on the statute until 2006 when she found out about this abuse, but the court found that the law does not support that logic.

"Although the South Dakota legislature has approved a discovery rules for childhood sex abuse cases ... it has chosen not to do so for older victims, such as Baye who was 23 years old when Scadron assaulted her," Murphy wrote.

Baye had also claimed she deserved the benefit of an extension afforded to fraudulent concealment crimes, since the diocese should have been aware that Scadron abused parishioners.

Murphy rejected this argument, too, noting that "nothing in the record indicates he had any 'proclivity' towards sexual assault."

The ruling also states that Baye cannot get an extension under the equitable tolling doctrine, which allows plaintiffs to sue after the statutory time period has expired if they were prevented from doing so because of "inequitable circumstances."

Murphy found that the diocese would be prejudiced if Baye was allowed to sue since their most important witness, Scadron, is dead.

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