Miami, KC papers differ in accounts of 'John Doe' suit
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY - Two newspapers, both owned by the Knight-Ridder chain, offered differing accounts of the charges lodged against Bishop Raymond J. Boland and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph by a 49-year-old Massachusetts man named only as "John T. Doe."
Press accounts said a lawsuit against Bishop Boland, the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, the Vatican and three other U.S. dioceses, alleged that Doe was paid money to remain silent concerning allegations that he had been molested more than 30 years ago as a high school student at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Hannibal.
Those accounts said the lawsuit, filed April 18 in St. Louis, charged that former Knoxville, Tenn., and Palm Beach, Fla., Bishop Anthony O'Connell, Doe's spiritual director at the seminary in 1968, molested Doe, then began paying him some 26 years later to remain silent. The lawsuit alleged that Bishop Boland participated in a conspiracy to keep the allegations quiet, according to media accounts.
Bishop O'Connell resigned March 8 as bishop of Palm Beach after it was learned that another former St. Thomas Aquinas seminarian had received a cash settlement in 1996 from the Diocese of Jefferson City, where the seminary is located, in a separate claim against Bishop O'Connell.
In the latest lawsuit, Doe is reported to have claimed he approached Bishop Boland some eight years ago, when Doe was living in Kansas City, with his allegations against Bishop O'Connell.
Doe claimed he sought out Bishop Boland after unrelated allegations against two Kansas City priests became public in late January 1994, some five months after Bishop Boland was installed as bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese.
Based on an April 18 news conference in St. Louis conducted by Doe's attorney, Jeffrey R. Anderson, The Kansas City Star on April 19 reported that Anderson claimed that Bishop Boland allegedly told his client in 1994 that "this is the kind of thing that we like to keep and need to keep a secret."
However, The Miami Herald on April 18 characterized the alleged 1994 meeting as informal, and reported that it was Doe who offered to keep the allegations quiet. Quoting Doe, the newspaper wrote:
"After Mass one day, he (Doe) said he approached Bishop Boland and asked to talk to him about an abuser. 'I said I want to keep it quiet. I don't want my name coming out. And I don't necessarily want you to report it to anyone, but if you could speak to Bishop O'Connell about it ... and he said, well that's the way we like to handle it.'"
The Herald's story was based on an interview with Anderson, and Doe's "March 25 statement in his lawyer's office." The story was available over the Internet at www.miami.com.
According to The Star's account, Bishop Boland and Doe both called Bishop O'Connell, who was then bishop of Knoxville.
"Shortly after the phone calls, according to the lawsuit, O'Connell began making monthly payments of $200 to the plaintiff," The Star's Matt Stearns and Judy L. Thomas wrote on April 19.
However, The Herald's Amy Driscoll wrote in more specific detail about when the first alleged payment was made, and reported a different amount: "O'Connell's accuser described a series of payments that began in late 1994 informally as Christmas gifts - usually $100 tucked into a Christmas card."
The Herald's account dated the first alleged payment nearly a year after Doe's alleged meeting with Bishop Boland.
The Herald also quoted Anderson twice as saying that the alleged payments did not become regular until nearly four years after that, when his client was faced with "financial hard times."
According to The Herald, Doe "in 1998 ... asked O'Connell for $75,000 when he ran into financial difficulties."
Earlier in the story, The Herald reported: "The payments became more regular in 1998 after the $75,000 figure was mentioned, Anderson said."
The Star reported that Anderson at the news conference said his client said that Bishop Boland "then offered to call O'Connell for the plaintiff and that both the plaintiff and Boland separately called O'Connell."
The Herald's story makes no mention of any alleged calls between Bishop Boland and Bishop O'Connell concerning Doe.
The Star reported that the alleged "monthly payments of $200 ... totaled more than $21,000 and continued until three weeks ago, Anderson said."
It would require 105 monthly payments of $200 to total $21,000. That would put the date of the first payment sometime in May or June of 1993, at least three months before Bishop Boland was installed in Kansas City-St. Joseph.
The Herald reported that Doe said the size and frequency of the alleged payments varied widely: "(Doe) said O'Connell ... told him he did not have a large lump sum, but began making payments of about $200 every month or so, sometimes as much as $2,000."
According to The Star's account, Anderson said, "We do know that Bishop Boland knew there was child sexual abuse ... We know that he actively became part of the conspiracy in 1994, if he didn't know it before then."
The Star's April 19 coverage of the filing of the lawsuit also included a sidebar story by Donna McGuire portraying attorney Anderson as a "longtime advocate for the poor" who "said he liked to represent the underdog and people who had been wronged."
In an April 19 statement, Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocesan Chancellor George Noonan called the allegations against Bishop Boland "neither true nor credible."
Noting that Bishop Boland was out of Kansas City on diocesan business that day, Noonan said he spoke to the bishop by telephone.
"The bishop told me he has absolutely no recollection of any conversation with anyone claiming sexual abuse by Bishop O'Connell," Noonan said in the statement.