Illustration by Vlad Alvarez
Paul Alvino was abused by a priest in 1971 off church property - who's responsible?
If a local Catholic priest with a known history of sexually abusing children molests a young boy, but does it off of church property, is the Archdiocese of St. Louis legally responsible?
Nope, decided a 22nd Circuit judge last March -- the first time a Missouri judge had ever ruled in the Church's favor based on where
the clergy sex abuse took place (see our feature, "Sins of the Father
Today, the man who brought such a lawsuit -- Paul J. Alvino
of Mehlville, formerly of St. Mary Magdalen
in South City -- is appearing before a state appeals court, hoping that ruling will be reversed.
Alvino claims that the late Fr. Thomas Cooper
abused him during a trip out to the country back in 1971 - an experience that Alvino says he immediately erased from his memory, but recovered in a therapy session nine years ago.
Recovered memories are notoriously sketchy
but there's plenty of evidence to bolster this one: the local Church
hierarchy exchanged letters back in the late 60s about how to handle
"the problem of Father Cooper." Furthermore, Cooper had previously been
sued by another man for very similar allegations, and settled out of
court -- a matter which Alvino knew nothing about.
On the other
hand, it's inaccurate to state that the Archdiocese totally refuses to
take responsibility: according to sources that decline to be named, the
Church has offered financial assistance to Alvino which would cover his
therapy. However, negotiations for a settlement have apparently gone
As Church lawyer Bernie Huger
explained to RFT
last summer in general terms (and not about this specific case): "If a
person makes a demand that we consider to be exorbitant, then we'll have
to go to court."
As for Alvino, he says this isn't about the
money for him -- it's about getting his "day in court," being able to
tell his story before a jury and judge, and the Archdiocese taking some
"I go to sleep thinking about this, and I wake up thinking about it," he says.