Archbishop Robert Carlson Seeks to Dismiss Sex Abuse Lawsuit, Argues Archdiocese Isn't Liable

Aug 21, 2013 at 6:00 am
Archbishop Robert Carlson. - via
Archbishop Robert Carlson.

Last month, a Lincoln county family filed a lawsuit against St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson alleging that he tried to cover up a sex abuse case involving a local priest and even attempted to tamper with incriminating evidence. The priest in question is Father Xiu Hui "Joseph" Jiang who reportedly has very close ties to Carlson -- and who is accused of repeatedly molesting a teenage girl.

Now, Carlson has filed a formal response to the suit, asking the courts to dismiss it, arguing that neither he nor the Archdiocese of St. Louis is liable.

Victims' rights advocates say this move is not surprising but still troubling. "It's like no matter what the facts are or what the allegations are, his response is stunningly uniform: 'You can't hold me responsible,'" David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, tells Daily RFT.

See also: St. Louis Archdiocese Cancels Event to Pray for "Exoneration" of Priest Accused of Sex Abuse

SNAP, along with the attorneys representing the accuser, say the case against Jiang and the Archdiocese is unique for several reasons. Notably, the accusations refer to very recent incidents; Jiang, according to the suit, molested the girl several times last year and admitted his actions to the victims' parents in June of 2012. The suit also says notes clear evidence of the abuse -- including text messages from Jiang who allegedly tried to pay off the family.

Father Joseph Jiang's mugshot.
Father Joseph Jiang's mugshot.

Additionally, this may be the first time that Carlson has ever been subpoenaed in a criminal case.

In the case of Jiang, there is both an ongoing criminal case and civil suit. The abuse is said to have occurred inside the home of the victim, whose family was reportedly very close to the priest.

Carlson's response doesn't necessarily address the accusations head-on but argues that legally, he and the Archdiocese of St. Louis cannot be liable on any of the counts. An excerpt:

Under Missouri law, a corporate entity on its own cannot commit battery.... Even if the Court were to construe Count I of Plaintiff's Petition as pleading a claim for vicarious liability, Plaintiffs would still not state a cause of action because sexual assault and battery are not within the course and scope of the employment of priests.

While the lawsuit alleges that the Archdiocese "aided and abetted" Jiang's alleged actions, "Missouri courts have declined to extend liability under the theories attempted by Plaintiffs," says the motion to dismiss.

Citing past cases, the filing also says, "Because the Missouri Supreme Court has determined that a claim of negligence against a religious entity (or its religious leaders) in this situation violates the First Amendment, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against the Archdiocese or Archbishop Carlson for negligence."

click to enlarge Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. - Photo by Andrew Balet
Photo by Andrew Balet
Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

Clohessy says it's hypocritical of the Archdiocese not to offer a substantive response to the accusations -- and for Carlson to claim he is not responsible.

"He repeatedly promised to be open and transparent...and yet it's been now more than a month since these fairly shocking charges were made and he's chosen not to give an answer," he says. "A real, straightforward answer."

"You could summarize this motion in one sentence. 'Whether or not I did any of these things doesn't matter. Missouri law says I can't be held responsible. The case against me should be tossed,'" he continues.

Continue for the full motion and information on one significant footnote in the filing.