Abuse victims file lawsuit against Catholic church as bishop conference wraps up

BALTIMORE — A lawsuit announced Wednesday targets Catholic bishops at their fall conference and alleges church leaders continue to protect pedophile priests across the country, including in Chicago.

A Minnesota attorney who handles sex abuse cases nationwide and three men who say they were abused by clergy during their boyhoods gathered to announce a lawsuit against the bishops conference, accusing it of hiding the crimes of predator priests.

Jeff Anderson, who filed the lawsuit this week in federal court in Minnesota, said the bishops were named because their dioceses kept secret files about clergy whose misconduct might expose the church to more abuse accusations.

"We are taking the opportunity to do everything we can together to protect kids, to disgorge the secrets," Anderson said.

The federal lawsuit demanding a trial by jury has six plaintiffs; three joined Anderson in Baltimore.

Among then was Joseph McClean, of Minneapolis. The priest he says abused him decades ago was publicly named as a "credibly accused" offender in 2015 by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

"I am here to protect kids today. I'm here to protect kids tomorrow. And I'm here to protect children who have grown into adults and who haven't had an opportunity to heal from the abuse that they suffered," McLean said.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are also frustrated that the Vatican has told bishops meeting at the conference not to vote on proposals for church reform.

Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich, one of the pope’s major U.S. allies, took a lead role in the face of frustration among some of the more than 200 bishops over perceived Vatican interference.

“The common denominator among us is we love the church and we love our people,” Cardinal Cupich said. “This is not just an American problem or an Anglo problem or a Western problem. It’s a global issue and so we need to do this together for the good of the people of god and the good of the church.”

So far, the Conference of Catholic Bishops has not commented on the lawsuit.

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