(St. Louis, Mo.) – A new child sex abuse and cover up lawsuit has been filed against two Catholic priests, including one who worked and now lives in Reno. It is unusual because, according to the suit, some of the crimes happened in a confessional booth and a church itself and because one cleric allegedly raped a teenager while the other watched and masturbated.
At a news conference outside the Kansas City diocesan headquarters, leaders of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, discussed the civil suit, which charges that Fr. Thomas Cronin and Fr. John J. Tulipana sexually assaulted a then devout 17 year old girl in 1979 in western Missouri.
During much of the last decade, Cronin worked in three towns in Nevada: Reno (St. Therese Church of the Little Flower) and Washoe Medical Center), Fernley (St. Robert Bellarmine) and Empire (St. Joseph the Worker). Around 2007, Cronin retired and listed 143 Desert Lakes Rd. in Fernley, NV as his address.
“It’s especially heinous when two predators, under the guise of religion, sexually assault a teenager,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP’s Executive Director. “We hope that every person who saw, suspected or suffered crimes by these clerics will speak up, get help, call police, protect others and start healing.”
Tulipana has been publicly accused of child sex crimes before. Cronin has not been. Both priests are alive, neither has been defrocked. The victim, who now lives outside of Missouri, repressed all memory of the crimes until last year, the suit says.
According to the 34 page suit, through confession at Sacred Heart parish in Hamilton (in Daviess County MO), Cronin learned that the girl had been abused by a relative. Later, he manipulated her and molested her in the confessional booth (and sometimes in the church itself) as many as ten times.
“Through confession, Cronan learned that this girl had been molested before,” said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP’s Outreach Director. “Yet he used this trusted, confidential information to betray and further violate her in the awful says.”
On a Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) weekend retreat in Maryville MO, the suit says, one priest raped her while the other watched and masturbated.
According to the suit “multiple priests and lay persons (knew) that Tulipana and Croin were sexually abusing children, providing liquor to children and spending inordinate amounts of time with children.”
The suit seeks unspecified damages and was filed Friday in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Ordained in 1969, Cronin worked in at least four Missouri towns including Blue Springs (St. Robert Bellarmine), Hamilton (Sacred Heart), Gallatin (Mary Immaculate), and Kansas City (St. Patrick’s, Holy Cross, St. Gabriel Archangel, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Bernadette’s). Cronin was also assigned to several chaplaincies including at Children’s Mercy, Truman Medical Center, Western Missouri Mental Health Center, Charlotte Extended Care Center, University of Missouri-Kansas City Dentistry School, and the University School of Medicine. Cronin was also active in Boy Scouts.
In 1989, Richard Durocher told church officials Tulipana had abused him as a child. The diocese gave him $150,000 but demanded that he sign a “gag order” preventing him from discussing the abuse. Durocher was promised that Tulipana would receive therapy and children would be protected. But Tulipana was allowed to stay in active ministry with access to kids. In 1994, Durocher broke his silence, the KC Star wrote about the case, and Tulipana resigned. Since then, the diocese has admitted that others have come forward with sex abuse charges and they have settled with at least “several” of them.
Ordained in 1972, Tulipana worked in at least eight parishes including Independence (Nativity of Mary), Grandview (Coronation of Our Lady), Clinton (Holy Rosary), and Kansas City (St. Catherine’s at 4101 E. 105th Terrace; St. Augustine’s at 7801 thePaseo; Christ the King at 85th Street & Wornall Road; Holy Trinity at 934 Norton Ave., and, in the mid-1990s, at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.) He also taught at the University of Dallas.
Tulipana is believed to be around 60 and living at 301 S. Shrank in Independence.
In a statement released yesterday, the Kansas City diocese claims “In 1996, Cronin accepted a hospital chaplain position in the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He retired in 2004.”
Last week, another clergy sex case was filed against the Kansas City diocese. It charged that Fr. Michael Tierney molested a then-13 year old boy in 1971 at St. Elizabeth Parish who “repressed all memory” of the abuse until approximately 2008.
The victim is represented by Kansas City attorney Rebecca Randles.