An effort by the Catholic Church in St. Louis to quash a sexual abuse lawsuit against a priest was unsuccessful after a judge ruled that the civil case can go to trial, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday. The Rev. Xiu Hui “Joseph” Jiang is accused of molesting a 15-year-old girl he met while she and her family attended the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica.
“After construing all allegations favorably to plaintiffs, this court determines there exist genuine issues of material face to be decided by the trier of fact,” Lincoln County Circuit Court Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer wrote in a Dec. 28 decision, according to court papers obtained by the Post-Dispatch. Lawyers for the defendant said they were first made aware of the ruling on Thursday. Mennemeyer made his ruling in part because the alleged abuse did not happen on church property.
“Despite the fact that one of its priests, Father Joseph Jiang, used his power and authority as a priest to manipulate and abuse a child, the archdiocese tried to have the case thrown out on a technicality,” Nicole Gorovsky, one of the attorneys for the plaintiff’s family, told the paper. “They did not succeed.”
The criminal case against Jiang was dismissed in 2013 because prosecutors failed to prove the priest was with the girl alone in her home as they claimed. The Archdiocese of St. Louis, which is named as a defendant in the civil case, said it would continue to defend Jiang and said he currently serves in a capacity where he is not interacting with children. Jiang is also facing criminal charges alleging that he sexually abused a young boy in the bathroom of St. Louis the King school, located at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica.
“Until the legal issues, which we expect to be resolved favorably, are fully resolved, Fr. Jiang resides in a secure environment and does not have any priestly faculties or ministry which would put him in contact with minors,” Gabe Jones, a spokesman for the archdiocese, told the Post-Dispatch. “Prayers are requested for everyone involved.”
Meanwhile, the advocacy group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests accused the archdiocese of disclosing information that led church families to discover the identity of the second accuser.
“Catholic parishes are tightly knit,” David Clohessy of SNAP told St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOX in April. “And they’re especially tightly knit when they have a school, like Cathedral has. So, for Archbishop [Robert] Carlson to disclose information that lets other parishioners know who this family is, and who this victim is -- he’s still a boy -- that’s just unconscionable.”