Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Against Knights of Columbus Allege Cover-up

Two men sued the Knights of Columbus last week, alleging that a youth leader sexually abused them when they were boys. The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic lay organization, with nearly 28,000 Columbian Squires who are members in the organization’s fraternity for young men between the ages of 10 and 18.

The lawsuits claim that a former Columbian Squires youth leader abused the men in the 1970s and 1980s. One of the plaintiffs has stated he informed Knights of Columbus of the abuse in 1986, but the organization concealed the abuse and intimidated him against making the abuse publicly known.

The Knights of Columbus denies the allegations of a cover-up and the organization believes it acted quickly to report the youth leader to the police when the Knights first learned of the allegations last year. Since the time of the alleged abuse, the Knights of Columbus has established a program requiring background checks on all youth leaders.

The first plaintiff alleges the youth leader sexually abused him at several events and locations between 1973 and 1977. He is alleging the youth leader plied him with alcohol and pornography.

The second plaintiff alleges the same youth leader abused him over a period of six years on overnight trips and events and that the leader plied him with alcohol, marijuana, pornography and pills. He also alleges the youth leader pulled a gun on him when he refused to comply and that the youth leader threatened him and his family with physical harm if he ever told anyone of the abuse.

Each lawsuit is seeking more than $5 million in damages. The attorney for the men believes that these lawsuits are the first sexual abuse lawsuits against the Knights of Columbus.

Source: The Washington Post, “Knights of Columbus suit claims sex abuse cover-up,” 12/14/2010

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