Clergy abuse victim settles lawsuit with archdiocese

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A man who was sexually abused by a Catholic priest more than 40 years ago is the first plaintiff to reach a settlement with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in a clergy abuse lawsuit, KSTP reports.

Jon Jaker, 54, announced Wednesday that he and the archdiocese had settled the suit he filed last October, in which he claimed that he was sexually abused by Rev. Thomas Stitts when he was an altar boy at St. Leo's Church in St. Paul in 1971. Jaker was 11 years old at the time of the abuse. Rev. Stitts died in 1985 at the age of 50.

Jaker, who now lives in California, spoke at a news conference at the Minneapolis office of his attorney, Patrick Noaker. He did not disclose the terms of the settlement.

He filed the suit last October under the name John Doe 100, but he revealed his identity at the news conference.

"My name is Jon Jaker, and I'm a survivor, and today we won a little bit back," he said, according to KSTP.

Jaker's lawsuit was one of the first filed after the Minnesota Legislature passed a law which removed the statute of limitations for child abuse cases, and created a three-year window for victims to file suit even if the abuse took place decades ago.

The suit alleged the archdiocese knew for years that Stitts was abusing children beginning in 1965, but continued to move him from parish to parish, according to KSTP. Stitts served in parishes in Hastings, Long Lake, New Brighton and St. Paul. MPR News has more background on him here.

The archdiocese faces lawsuits from at least 12 other plaintiffs who also claim they were abused by Rev. Stitts.

Jaker's mother, Yvonne, who lives in Fridley, said she had reported the abuse to officials at her church and at the archdiocese, but said she was "shut out of the chancery office."

"I suffered many years. Forty-three years of anguish thinking that I had failed as a mother,” she said, according to KSTP.

The Archdiocese released a statement from Bishop Andrew Cozzens apologizing for the abuse.

"We regret that the victim's pleas for help were not heard earlier by the archdiocese. We are grateful now that we were able to listen to Doe 100. The archdiocese apologizes for the harm suffered by abuse victims/survivors and their families and friends and asks for forgiveness for the Church's shameful failures of the past."

Jaker encouraged other clergy abuse victims to come forward, according to the Star Tribune.

Another high-profile lawsuit against the archdiocese is expected to go to trial in September. A plaintiff known only as Doe 1 claims he was abused by former priest Thomas Adamson in the 1970s.

The lawsuit claims the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona created a public nuisance by keeping under wraps its documents related to priest abuse, and it claims that church leaders were negligent in that their actions continued to jeopardize the safety of children.

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