Five men are suing a former priest and a Catholic order for alleged sexual abuse that occurred in the 1970s and ’80s.
The two suits, filed Thursday in Ramsey County District Court against the former Rev. Gerald Funcheon and the Crosier Fathers and Brothers religious order, allege that Funcheon abused children while he worked at St. Odilia Church in Shoreview and while he taught at Palma High School in Salinas, Calif.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys, Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan, released church documents showing that leaders with the Crosiers and Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis knew of alleged sexual abuse by Funcheon, and his interest in boys.
“In a conversation with the Bishop, Jerry [Funcheon] indicated that there may be around 50 victims with whom he engaged in mutual masturbation or improper touch [when] these young men were between the ages of 10 and 16,” wrote the Rev. Bob J. Rossi, a Crosier official, in October 1992. “Bob Sell indicated that Jerry was having a hard time seeing improper touch as sexual abuse.”
Sell was chancellor of the Diocese of Lafayette, Ind.
One suit alleges that Funcheon sodomized a 14-year-old Palma High School student during a camping trip in 1985. The other suit, filed by four men identified as Doe 41, 42, 43 and 44, alleges that Funcheon abused them in the early 1970s while he worked at St. Odilia.
The latter suit also makes a nuisance claim for each plaintiff, allowing Anderson and Finnegan to call on the Crosiers to release files on all known offenders, not just Funcheon, including 19 priests and brothers who worked in Minnesota, Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, California and New York.
“The Crosiers take each of these claims seriously, along with any claim of abuse by any Crosier, staff person or volunteer associated with us,” said a statement on the Crosiers’ website, which did not address Anderson’s demand that they release more files.
As a Crosier, Funcheon, now 76, worked within the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, at St. Odilia from 1971 to 1974 and as associate pastor at St. Stephen’s in Anoka in 1985.
He was terminated from the Crosier Order in 1987 — the same year he was incardinated into the Diocese of Lafayette. He was permanently removed from the priesthood in 1993, and now lives in Dittmer, Mo.
The suit alleging abuse in Minnesota claims that the Crosiers “learned or should have learned” in 1965 that Funcheon sexually abused a child at the Catholic Youth Organization Camp in Syracuse, Ind.
The Crosiers reassigned him to about 17 locations in eight states despite his history, Anderson said.
Throughout the years, Funcheon worked at summer camps, served as a chaplain for a Boy Scout troop, coached youth basketball, and in Onamia, Minn., taught physical education, driver’s education and swimming.
Superiors noticed Funcheon’s interest in boys early on, according to documents released by Anderson and Finnegan. In 1965, Magister J. Fichtner evaluated Funcheon and wrote, “Almost his sole interest is young boys,” underlining “young.”
In 2009, the Crosiers reached a $1.7 million settlement with nine men. Four Crosiers, including Funcheon, were named in the suit.
In February 2014, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis publicly added Funcheon’s name to its list of priests who had been “credibly accused” of sexually abusing minors. Funcheon wrote to Archbishop John Nienstedt that month.
“I am deeply repentent [sic] for the serious harm I have done to victims both of your diocese and elsewhere,” Funcheon wrote.