Former S. Minnesota altar boy alleges priest abuse in 1950s

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A man who says he was abused from 1957 to 1960 when he was an altar boy at a church in Hector, Minnesota, has sued the Catholic Church, the Pioneer Press reports.

The plaintiff, who now lives in Colorado and is not named in the lawsuit, says he was abused by the late Rev. William J. Marks, who worked in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Archdiocese of New Ulm from 1948 to 1979, the newspaper reports. Marks, who served at churches in Hastings and several other southern Minnesota towns, died in 1979.

The lawsuit says that the man alleges Marks abused him when he was 10 to 14 years old by "hugging (him) hard and sliding his hands down (the boy's) pants, and touching the inside of (his) thigh ... while (the boy) was changing into and out of his altar boy robes before and after Mass."

Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis officials said they were investigating the claims in the lawsuit, the Pioneer Press reports.

More than 20 new lawsuits that allege abuse by Catholic clergy in Minnesota have been filed since May. That's when a new state law called the Child Victims Act took effect, which removed statues of limitations and allowed adults to sue churches for not protecting them from abuse when they were children. The law gives plaintiffs a three-year window to file the suits.

The archdiocese has been under fire as it seeks to respond to the lawsuits and to critics who say church officials covered up abuse.

Archbishop John Nienstedt has denied cover-ups and said he welcomes an outside audit of church files, although critics say the church is restricting some access to the files.

Nienstedt also has promised to release a secret list of priests who currently reside in the archdiocese and who have been determined by church officials to be guilty of abuse. It's unknown exactly how many priests are on the list, but Nienstedt says all of them have been removed from ministry.

Critics have called for Nienstedt to resign.

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