An Irish priest sent to the United States in 1981 to be treated for pedophilia by the Roman Catholic Church is being accused of sexually assaulting teenage boys in southern Minnesota during his brief time at a church in Henderson.
The allegations of one of those victims, identified as John Doe 103, are included in a lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Diocese of New Ulm. The lawsuit claims Francis Markey, who died last year while awaiting trial in Ireland for raping a 15-year-old boy in 1968, sexually assaulted the Henderson area victim in 1982 while temporarily serving at a church there.
Markey was 84 when he died, which means he would have been about 54 when he was in Minnesota.
Pat Noaker, the Minnetonka attorney who filed the lawsuit, said the victim reported the sexual assaults to him about three years ago. A lawsuit couldn't be filed then because the incident was too old for Minnesota's statute of limitations laws at the time. Those laws were eased when the state Legislature passed the Child Victims Act earlier this year.
The lawsuit claims the victim, who was 15 at the time, was groped and fondled by Markey. The assaults allegedly happened in the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Henderson and in a car while they were driving to the victim's rural residence for dinner with his family.
The diocese is being sued because officials there should have known about Markey's long history of sexually assaulting teen boys, Noaker said.
A spokesman for the diocese, Rev. Douglas Grams of New Ulm, said there is no record of Markey serving as a priest in Henderson. Markey was at the Regional Treatment Center in Willmar at the time to take classes to become a substance abuse counselor, Grams said. So it is possible that he was briefly assigned to the church.
"We just know that the common procedure would have been if a priest were sick or on vacation, a priest helping out in Willmar would have been asked to cover," he said. "But there is no record of an official assignment."
Prior to being in Willmar, Markey had been sent to the Servant of the Paraclete facility in New Mexico in 1981. Noaker said it is now widely known that the Jemez Springs facility was used to treat priests for pedophilia. Markey had been sent to facilities in Ireland for sex offender treatment at least three times between 1964 and 1975 after being accused of sexually assaulting teen boys, Noaker said.
"This is a sad case because it never should have happened," he said outside the Brown County Courthouse in New Ulm after filing the lawsuit. "They knew Francis Markey couldn't control himself around children, and they put him in a position where he had access to children."
Noaker said he knows of four other victims from the Henderson church, which also included a congregation from Jessenland Township at the time. He expects more men to come forward even though the victim said Markey was only a priest at the church for fewer than two weeks.
During a telephone interview with The Free Press, the victim said he told his parents Markey had sexually touched him a short time after the incidents occurred. His parents reported the incident to a priest they knew in Arlington.
A short time later Markey was sent to serve as a priest at a church in Granite Falls, which also is within the Diocese of New Ulm. He was there for about three months.
"Basically our parish priest had passed away and this Father Markey was sent to us to fill in for him for about 10 days," the victim said.
In 2011 a man from the Granite Falls church filed a federal lawsuit accusing Markey of sexually assaulting him in 1982. That case was dismissed after the victim's attorney didn¹t respond to a court order to provide a request to proceed anonymously and provide more information about the defendants, which included the Diocese of New Ulm.
Grams said he has not been able to find a diocese record of the parents making a report. At the time, the diocese only knew that Markey was in New Mexico to be treated for alcoholism and was sent to Willmar because he had been accepted into a program to become a substance abuse counselor.
Officials at the diocese didn't become aware of Markey's past until they saw media coverage about the allegations in Ireland, Grams said.
The victim said he doesn't believe there aren't any diocese records about Markey working in Henderson. His parents, who still live in the Henderson area, told him the Arlington priest said the bishop at the time, Raymond Lucker, said he would take care of everything. His parents were encouraged to stay quiet and not report the incidents to law enforcement, the victim said.
He said he left the Catholic Church about three years ago after reading a statement in the Catholic Reader that said the Diocese of New Ulm knew nothing about Markey's past.
"That's why myself and some others are pursuing this. The diocese is lying and lying to these people," the victim said. "There's priests still serving in the diocese who know about this case. There's a history going back on (Markey) since the 1960s. If they didn't know about it, shame on them. It's all been a big coverup where ever someone goes."
The purpose of the lawsuit isn't to get money from the Catholic Church, the victim said. The most important thing to him is that the church be accountable for what happened.
He estimates that Markey ruined or upset many other young men's lives after he was sent to the United States. For him, Markey¹s abuse has made him always question other people's motives. It's also hard for him to trust anyone.
"You trust priests," he said. "You trust teachers, relatives and mom and dad. It robs innocence from you. That trust goes away and you start wondering about other things in your life."
After leaving Minnesota, Markey was assigned to the Servants of the Paraclete religious order in New Mexico in 1984. He served as chaplain of the Betty Ford Clinic in California during the 1990s. Rape charges were filed in Ireland for the 1968 incident after that victim came forward in 2006. Markey was living in the South Bend, Ind., area when he was extradited to Ireland.
Grams said the diocese now has screening procedures and annual training for priests to help identify possible predators.
"We take all allegations of sexual conduct seriously and if anyone has been hurt, come forward," Grams said. "We will help with spiritual guidance and healing."