Diocese settles, pays $2.25M to family after son’s suicide

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Diocese of Kansas City- St Joseph reached a settlement Monday afternoon in the wrongful death lawsuit filed in 2011 in Jackson County Court.

The civil trial against the Catholic Diocese was to begin on Monday, but instead both sides came to an agreement amounting to $2.25 million.

Brian Teeman’s family filed the lawsuit, claiming the diocese covered up sexual abuse by a priest against their son, who took his own life in 1983 at the age of 14.

Thomas O’Brien was ordained in 1950 and worked as a priest in Kansas City and Independence until his forced retirement in 1983. In the past 10 years, dozens of lawsuits have been filed against him, claiming he sexually abused many altar boys, including Brian Teeman.

According the SNAP, the Survivors Network of Abused Priests, the lawsuit alleges that “following the sexual encounters, O’Brien would require them to change into their robes, prepare communion and serve at the mass.”

It also states that “O’Brien forced silence on [boys] by telling them that they would be kicked out of the Catholic Church, they would go directly to hell and their parents would disown them.”

Teeman’s parents didn’t learn about the abuse until a fellow alter boy told them about it in 2011. The Diocese argued the statute of limitations had run out, meaning the lawsuit was not valid. But a Missouri judge ruled there was evidence the Diocese covered up the abuse back in the 80s, and the lawsuit should be allowed to move forward.

“To hold the church accountable, but more importantly to know why, why did their beautiful wonderful perfect little boy do this to himself. And, for 30 years, they blamed themselves, so knowing what the true cause is, is helpful in the sense, it helps them, but the sad part is now they are faced and confronted with the fact that their child was sexually abuse and that always painful for a parent to know,” said family attorney Rebecca Randles.

In a statement from the diocese, it said:

The decision to enter into this agreement was made in consideration of the financial and emotional toll on all parties of an anticipated four-week trial. In these circumstances, the Diocese believes that the settlement is in the best interest of the Teeman family, Nativity of Mary parish community and the people of the Diocese as a whole.

 While the facts surrounding Brian’s death have remained unclear, the tragedy of it is certain. The Catholic community prays that God’s face shines upon Brian, His peace descend on the Teeman family and His healing presence strengthen all hearts.

In addition to the $2.25 million, the Diocese will place a bench in Brian’s memory at Nativity of Mary Parish.

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