Former Quincy priest named in sexual abuse complaint

Steve Gonzalez Nov. 14, 2007, 7:26am

A man currently serving time for a sexual abuse conviction claims he was abused by a Catholic priest, according to a civil rights suit filed in Madison County on Nov. 8.

Gary Lange lodged his handwritten complaint against former priest Walter Weerts, the Catholic Archdiocese of Springfield, Jane Doe and John Doe, alleging he was sexually abused by Weerts from 1968 through 1970.

Lange claims that due to the alleged sexual abuse, he suffers from guilt, anger, frustration, sexual identity issues and chemical imbalances which led to him being sentenced to federal prison.

According to federal court documents, Lange was convicted of sexual abuse and was sentenced to serve at least 15 years in prison. At the time he filed his Madison County suit, he was incarcerated in Pekin. However, he is now located in Oklahoma City. He is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2008.

Lange claims he has been admitted to various mental institutions because of the severe mental and psychological distress that was caused by the abuse.

Lange claims the sexual abuse started in 1968 when Weerts would give him rides to his Collinsville home. He claims the priest fondled him.

He also claims that Weerts would give him beer before he would sexually abuse him.

Lange claims that at the time of the alleged sexual abuse, he was a minor and not in a position to protect himself and give proper consent.

"Plaintiff, as a minor, trusted defendant Weerts, as a respected clergy member, and defendant Weerts allegedly betrayed this trust and abused his position of power and authority," the complaint states.

Lange claims Weerts violated his U.S. Constitutional civil rights, especially the Fourth Amendment because he was deprived of his right to be secure in his person.

He also claims the Springfield Archdiocese failed to take action to stop Weerts from abusing him even though allegations of abuse by other children were being brought forward.

Representing himself, Lange is seeking the following relief:

  • Trial by jury on each and every issue;

  • Judgment against each and every defendant in each respective capacity;

  • Costs of the suit and attorney fees along with nominal damages;

  • $500,000 in compensatory damages from each defendant for loss of wages and property;

  • Punitive damages of $10 million against each defendant for the deprivation of constitutional rights and privileges.

    The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge David Hylla.

    According to published reports, in November 2003, the Springfield Diocese announced that it had paid more than $2.1 million to victims of sexual abuse by its priests.

    Since then, two more out-of-court settlements have been announced - $3 million in payments in February 2004 that settled 28 claims of priestly sexual abuse of minors, and another $1.2 million paid in July 2004 to settle civil suits brought by eight men against Weerts, a former Quincy priest.

    The eight men charged that Weerts had abused them between 1973 and 1980. That brought the total paid in settlements to approximately $6.3 million.

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