Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Salem priest to face accusers at trial

Alan Gustafson of the Salem Statesman Journal (Oregon) reports on lawsuits charging that a Catholic priest sexually abused boys while a juvenile corrections chaplain. Fr. Michael Sprauer denies all such allegations:

The priest allegedly molested the boys in segregation cells, his chaplain's office, in a storage closet and in a car that he drove to transport one youth to his sister's funeral.

Sprauer has denied all of the sexual-abuse accusations through his attorney and in a videotaped deposition.

To loyal parishioners, he remains a trusted man of God. Some think the well-known priest is being railroaded by ex-convicts seeking to cash in on bogus allegations.

"They've got nothing to lose and everything to gain," said Kevin Mannix, a former state legislator and long-time parishioner at St. Joseph Church in Salem, where Sprauer remains on the staff as a parochial vicar, assisting the Rev. James Coleman.

Mannix said he has known Sprauer for 20 years. He described him as "quiet, intelligent, diligent and completely dedicated to ministry."

"Yes, I think he's being falsely accused," Mannix said. "The best way to see this resolved is through a fair trial."

By law, it's too late for any criminal investigation or possible prosecution of the sex-abuse allegations against Sprauer. The statute of limitations expired long ago.

But Oregon law allows victims of sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits as long as three years after discovering the impact of abuse on their lives. In some cases, that can mean years, or decades, later.

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