MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis settled its first clergy sex abuse case since the passing of the Minnesota Child Victims Act. Last year the statute of limitations was lifted for victims.
“I was terrified, I was full of shame,” victim Jon Jaker said.
He was 11 when he said he was sexually abused by Father Thomas Stitts in 1971. At the time, Jaker was an altar boy at St. Leo’s Catholic Church in St. Paul.
“He was using the church. He was hiding under a cloak of goodness. He was the worst evil that you could possibly imagine,” Jaker said.
His mom said she tried desperately to get anyone to listen to her about the abuse.
“Forty-three years ago I was shut out,” Yvonne Jaker said. “The anguish that you feel is so tremendous and the guilt that you feel is overwhelming at times.”
Fourteen plus years of therapy later, much of that changed when the now 54-year-old Jaker and the Archdiocese settled their case.
“I’m not terrified anymore,” he said. “I’m not afraid and I’m going to sit here and tell you my name again. My name is Jon Jaker, and I’m a survivor and today we won a little bit back.”
“We don’t deny it,” Bishop Andrew Cozzens said.
Cozzens said the settlement was the right thing to do for the victim.
“We did apologize and we regret the fact that we didn’t hear these claims when they came in 40 years ago,” Cozzens said.
Father Stitts died nearly 30 years ago. There are several other allegations against him, which Cozzens calls troubling.
Victims have about 20 months to still report abuse under the Minnesota Child Victims Act.