Former Palma students sue Christian Brothers over alleged sex abuse.
Posted: Friday, November 21, 2014 3:11 pm
A former Palma High School teacher is facing two separate lawsuits filed Thursday in Minnesota, alleging he sexually abused students there decades ago.
Steven Cantrell was a 13-year-old student at Palma High School in 1984 when Father Gerald Funcheon was assigned there.
When he was 14, Cantrell joined Funcheon on a camping trip, where he was sexually abused, according to the lawsuit.
Cantrell is suing Funcheon for sexual battery, and the religious order that employed him—Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross, also known as Crosier Fathers and Brothers Province, Inc.—for negligence and fraud.
Cantrell claims that by the time he went on that camping trip, the Crosiers already knew that Funcheon was dangerous to children, and had deliberately reassigned him.
“By the time the Crosiers assigned Fr. Funcheon to Palma, they knew that Fr. Funcheon had a history of molesting children,” the lawsuit states. “The Crosiers breached their duty to protect [Cantrell] from foreseeable harm by failing to warn him or his parents that Fr. Funcheon posed a danger to children.”
It was one of two lawsuits filed Thursday in the Second Judicial District Court in Ramsey County, Minnesota, both against the Crosier Fathers and Funcheon himself. (The Catholic order is headquartered in Minnesota.) Palma is not named as a defendant.
The other plaintiffs, identified in their separate lawsuit as Does 41-44, claim they were abused in the early ’70s, from ages 11-14. Each is seeking at least $50,000 plus attorney’s fees.
According to the complaint, Funcheon was moved frequently from 1959-1994 by the Christian Brothers as a teacher and priest, working in schools in Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, Florida, Hawaii and California, where he taught at Palma.
“Crosiers placed Funcheon in positions where he had access to and worked with children as an integral part of his work,” the suit states.
The plaintiffs say that the Christian Brothers knew by 1965 that Funcheon had allegedly molested a minor, but did not act until 1994, then restricting his ministry functions.
Dozens of claims of sex abuse by members of the Christian Brothers have surfaced in recent years, not just concerning Funcheon but other priests as well.
Facing increasing legal costs, the order filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and announced a $16.5 million settlement this year. Nine former Palma students were among 400 people who received a restitution payment in that settlement for sexual abuse while attending Catholic schools.
Officials at Palma High School and the Christian Brothers in Minnesota were not immediately available for comment Friday.
“Without transparency and accountability for a childhood victim of trauma, it’s impossible to heal,” plaintiffs’ attorney Mike Reck says. “The past is prologue to the future. Until we know what happened in the past, there is no way to prevent that from happening in the future.”
Reck is with the firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, which represented 92 survivors of childhood sex abuse who were parties to the bankruptcy settlement.