Man sues Catholic diocese, alleges sex abuse by priest at US Army base in Hawaii in the 1970s

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The Republic (Columbus, Indiana)

October 04, 2012 – 12:59 am EDT

AUDREY McAVOY  Associated Press

HONOLULU — A 49-year-old Colorado man has sued the Catholic diocese serving western North Dakota, alleging one of its priests sexually abused him when he was a child in Hawaii decades ago.

A lawsuit filed in state court in Honolulu this week says the Rev. Maurice McNeely, then a military chaplain, sexually abused the plaintiff at an Army base around 1974 to 1975. The plaintiff, identified only as John Doe No. 87, was 11-12 years old at the time and an altar boy at a Fort Shafter chapel, where McNeely ministered to soldiers and their families.

The complaint claims the priest forced the plaintiff to perform oral sex on him. The lawsuit accuses the Diocese of Bismarck of negligence, saying it should have known the priest was a pedophile and warned the plaintiff’s family.

McNeely’s attorney, Michael Tsuchida, saidif his client denies the allegations. The diocese didn’t respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

McNeely, now in his 80s and retired, isn’t named as a defendant and hasn’t been criminally charged for the allegations. A separate lawsuit filed by the same plaintiff in federal court in Honolulu last year names both McNeely and the diocese as defendants. That case is in the pre-trial discovery phase, in which both sides are obtaining evidence from the other.

“Due to the pending litigation, I cannot comment further, however, Father McNeely is confident in the civil justice system, and thanks those who support him,” Tsuchida said in an emailed statement.

McNeely published a book entitled “Catholicism Without the Guilt” in 2006. He also served as the headmaster of Hawaii Family Catholic Academy, a Honolulu school, from 1987 through 2001.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, was filed under a Hawaii law that went into effect in April, providing a two-year window for sexual abuse claims involving minors even if the statute of limitations has expired. The lawsuit is the third such since the law went into effect. Two other lawsuits have been filed against the Diocese of Honolulu since April.

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