Behind a rising suicide rate, a struggle for answers
The parents of a man from Florissant who committed suicide in 2009 sued the St. Louis Archdiocese Thursday claiming their son’s death was the result of sexual and emotional abuse by a Roman Catholic priest at Kenrick Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury.
The lawsuit filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court says Bryan Kuchar, who was suspended by the archdiocese in 2002 and defrocked by the Vatican in 2006, molested the plaintiffs’ son at the seminary’s overnight camp between 1999 and 2002. The boy — known in court documents as John Doe SON — was between 12 and 14 at the time.
In 2003 Kuchar was found guilty of molesting a 14-year-old boy eight years earlier, when the priest was serving at Assumption Catholic Church in south St. Louis County. He was sentenced to three consecutive one-year terms in the St. Louis County Jail.
A spokeswoman for the archdiocese, Angela Shelton, said officials there had “not been served a copy of this lawsuit involving Kuchar, and we do not comment on pending litigation.”
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said there had been perhaps “a couple dozen” lawsuits across the country over the last decade in which the plaintiffs blamed a loved one’s suicide on clergy sexual abuse.
“It’s not unheard of, but it’s far from common,” he said.
In the most infamous case, five victims of the Rev. Robert Larson in the 1970s and 1980s killed themselves as adults. Larson now lives at the St. John Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Mo.
At least two other lawsuits over clergy sexual abuse where suicide was a factor have been settled by the St. Louis Archdiocese.
Kenneth Chackes, the attorney for the couple who filed the newest suit, said John Doe SON had made “several” suicide attempts between the ages of 14 and 21, when he died. He said John Doe SON spoke to at least one of his therapists and to other medical staff about the sexual abuse while he was hospitalized after suicide attempts.
Chackes said the parents took four years to file a lawsuit because they needed “a long time to deal with the suicide and how it happened.”
In a statement, the parents said they had approached the St. Louis Archdiocesan Review Board — which responds to accusations of clergy sexual abuse — but were dismissed.
“The fault lies with the church officials who failed to keep our son and other victims of predatory priests safe,” according to the statement.