Man sues St. Cloud diocese, former deacon Weber over 1970 sex abuse claim

Man sues St. Cloud diocese, former deacon Weber over 1970 sex abuse claim Click to Enlarge Photo:

Dec 13, 2011 at 1:52 pm

ST. PAUL, Minn. (KNSI) - A Virginia man sued the Diocese of St. Cloud Tuesday, alleging he was sexually abused as a child by a former St. Cloud church deacon on a Catholic families camping trip more than 40 years ago.

The suit was filed by attorney Jeff Anderson in Hennepin County Tuesday on behalf of a plaintiff identified only as Terry against the diocese as well as Michael Weber, a former deacon at St. Cloud's Church of the Holy Spirit.

The suit alleges the unidentified victim was only 6 years old when he was abused by Weber in the summer of 1970 during a camping trip for Catholic families near Alexandria. After befriending the child, the suit claims Weber, a deacon and seminarian at the time, invited the boy to sleep in his tent, then sexually abused him.

According to the complaint, the boy "ran screaming" to his parents the next morning and reported the abuse.

The boy's parents twice confronted diocese counselor Don Carle about the abuse, but were dissuaded from going to police by Carle, the suit claims. In the filing, Carle, reportedly a family friend of Weber, allegedly told the victim's parents that Weber was sick and he had been treating the Foley native and St. John's graduate for pedophilia.

Ultimately, Carle advised the victim's parents to downplay the abuse because the boy was young and probably would not remember the incident, the suit alleges.

Claims of sexual abuse by Weber were the subject of a three-hour St. Cloud diocese listening session on Dec. 4, allowing community members to discuss the allegations. A second session has been set for next Monday at the Church of the Holy Spirit.

Speaking to reporters via telephone at a news conference at Anderson's St. Paul offices Tuesday, Terry, who now lives in Alexandria, Virginia, said he only learned of Weber's name after media accounts of accusations made against Weber last month.

"My mother called me and informed me of Weber being on the front page," Terry said. "She thought it would be best if I got back for (the Dec. 4 listening session)," Terry said. "(I'd) never seen an opportunity to move forward on this before until then."

AUDIO: Victim "Terry" talks about his sexual abuse and who he filed the suit; 12/13/11

"It is my sincere desire that Michael Weber be held responsible for his crimes and that those who covered up his crimes be held fully accountable," Terry said. "Hopefully, this can save some other kids from having to go through the same thing."

The suit claims diocese leaders knew of claims surrounding Weber's propensity for sexually abusing children after he was alleged to have abused a 12-year-old boy and the boy's 11-year-old cousin beginning in 1968.

The seven-count complaint accused Weber of sexual abuse, while charging the Diocese of St. Cloud with negligence, negligent supervision, negligent retention and fraud.

The suit is asking for a judgment in excess of $50,000.

COURT FILING: Read the full complaint filed against Michael Weber and the Diocese of St. Cloud (PDF File); 12/13/11

Terry said the abuse he suffered as a boy impacted "every part of my life" in the 40 years since. "From drug and alcohol addiction, the divorces, the low self-esteem, the failed relationships with my family, no spiritual life to speak of...I'm still, to this day, not really a believer, but I hope to be one day...I would say that that incident changed me and changed everything about me from being a nice little innocent kid to being the exact opposite."

Weber, 67, now lives in the Twin Cities following a career in child welfare services. His career includes stints as a former associate director and acting executive director of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, past director of the Hennepin County Community Services Department and an assistant commissioner in the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Weber resigned from his position on the board of directors for the Greater Twin Cities United Way last month following the allegations of abuse.

Weber has not spoken publicly about the case. No criminal charges have been filed against Weber in connection with the alleged abuse.

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