(Pioneer Press) A former altar boy filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Duluth accusing a retired priest of molesting him and accusing the bishop of the Superior Diocese of taking no action on several complaints about the priest.
Identified only as John Doe 113, the 55-year-old Superior man accused the Rev. Edward F. Beutner of sexually abusing him as a teenager. Filed by St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, the suit also alleges several complaints made to Bishop Raphael Fliss about Beutner in the past few years were ignored.
The suit seeks more than $50,000 in damages.
Fliss and diocese spokesman the Rev. Philip J. Heslin did not return messages Wednesday seeking comment. Beutner, 66, who is believed to be living in River Falls, Wis., could not be reached for comment.
The Superior man was an altar boy at Superior’s Cathedral of Christ the King in the mid-’60s and “came to know, admire, trust, revere and respect Beutner as a priest, teacher, counselor, spiritual adviser and religious instructor,” according to the lawsuit filed in St. Louis County District Court.
His lawsuit alleges that Beutner, then serving at the cathedral, “engaged in unpermitted, harmful and offensive sexual contact” with the boy, who was about 15 years old in 1965 or 1966, during a trip to Minnesota, which is why the lawsuit is being filed in Duluth.
Anderson, nationally known for representing victims of clergy sexual abuse, said a similar suit would have been filed in Superior, but a 1995 state Supreme Court decision has made such cases nearly impossible in Wisconsin.
According to the lawsuit, the former altar boy “suffered a traumatic amnesia, or memory repression, of the sexual abuse” and had no memory of it until about 2005 or 2006 while in psychological treatment.
The suit also alleges Fliss and other church officials “continue to attempt to cover up Beutner’s abuse of children” despite three other reports from individuals who say they were molested as children by the retired priest.
John Doe 113 contacted Fliss six months ago after learning Beutner still was active in the priesthood and became concerned. About the same time, he attended a reunion and met three of his classmates who said Beutner also had abused them, the lawsuit said. All four then went to see Fliss, Anderson said.
The bishop told them the statute of limitations had passed and they couldn’t bring any action against the church. “Which is not what they wanted,” Anderson said. “They wanted him to do something.”
The bishop did tell the men he would look into their claims, but Anderson said nothing was done.
Beutner is now retired, but he continues to be active in church-related events and retreats, Anderson said.
Kevin Harter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-950-9080, ext. 2149.