The St. Louis archdiocese asked a judge Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the archbishop of failing to report child sexual abuse allegations against a priest he lived with and apparently mentored.
Attorney Gerard Noce, who represents Archbishop Robert Carlson and the archdiocese, told Circuit Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer that the lawsuit filed by the family of the alleged victim fails to spell out how Carlson and the priest’s other superiors acted improperly. She told attorneys for the two sides she would review the request and scheduled another hearing for next June.
The priest, the Rev. Xiu Hui “Joseph” Jiang, was charged in June 2012 with first-degree child endangerment and witness tampering. His trial had been scheduled to begin last month but was postponed. Jiang, who has pleaded not guilty, was placed on administrative leave. His attorney, Paul D’Agrosa, didn’t respond to a phone message Wednesday seeking comment.
Prosecutors allege that on several occasions earlier in 2012, Jiang had improper sexual contact with an underage girl in a church rectory parking lot and at her family’s home in Old Monroe, about 45 miles north of St. Louis. She was 16 years old when the alleged abuse began.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in July, Jiang left a $20,000 check on the family’s car after the alleged sexual abuse happened, and Carlson later called the girl’s parents after Jiang told him about his misconduct. When the couple asked for the bishop’s response, Carlson replied that “he would remove Jiang if he `had sex’ with the girl, but not for activities other than that.” Carlson asked for the check back, but the family instead reported the exchange to the police, the lawsuit states.
Noce argued Wednesday that the lawsuit should be dismissed because it doesn’t spell out wrongdoing on the part of the archdiocese and Carlson, who was deposed in August as part of the criminal case against Jiang but who is not facing any charges, himself.
The family’s attorney, Nicole Gorovsky, countered that lawsuit raises several concerns about Carlson that justify allowing it to proceed, including his rejection of a request by Jiang to be reassigned.
“There is all kinds of smoke as to how (Jiang) was brought here,” she said of the 30-year-old priest, who came to the United States a decade ago from Ji Nan, China in the Shandong province. “They did an investigation and let him go back to this family. They knew this guy was dangerous.”
The connection between Carlson and Jiang goes back nearly a decade. Jiang served as a deacon in Saginaw, Mich., where Carlson was bishop from 2005 to 2009. Jiang subsequently attended St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. – the same diocese where Carlson had been ordained 40 years earlier. He then followed Carlson to St. Louis, serving as an associate pastor at the stately Cathedral Basilica.
The archdiocese has previously called the allegations against Carlson false. A spokeswoman on Wednesday did not immediately respond to several messages seeking comment.
Carlson’s clerical oversight is also being questioned in Minnesota, where he spent 10 years as auxiliary bishop earlier in his career.
A lawsuit filed last week against the St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese identifies Carlson as one of several church leaders who inadequately intervened after a priest who had admitted to sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy was given another assignment, where he subsequently molested a 7- or 8-year girl in the mid-1980s, according to the lawsuit.
Although Carlson doesn’t face criminal charges, Missouri law requires teachers, doctors, priests and other adults who suspect a child has been abused to report those concerns to authorities. Lincoln County prosecutor Leah Askey was not available to comment Wednesday, her office said.
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