A sexual assault complaint filed last year involving a former Franklin County priest has been resolved, however the terms of the settlement have not been released.
That’s according to Timothy J. Freiberg, an attorney representing Gary Klein who filed the complaint in November 2017 in the Madison County Circuit Court against Father Dennis Zacheis.
Freiberg told The Missourian a cash settlement was reached last year in response to the complaint against the priest who served as pastor at St. Gertrude Parish in Krakow from 1994 to 2003.
Zacheis, known here locally as Father Dennis, also served as pastor at St. Anthony Parish in Sullivan from 2005-09.
The terms of the settlement were not made public due to a confidentiality clause.
According to the complaint filed in November 2017, Klein alleges he was sexually assaulted by Zacheis as a minor between 1975 and 1978 while the defendant was employed by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Catholic Church in Mehlville and the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Freiberg, of the Law Offices of Frederick W. Nessler and Associates LTD in Springfield, Ill., said a civil settlement was ordered last year that involved multiple St. Louis area priests. Zacheis never responded to that settlement, which led to Klein’s complaint.
Zacheis agreed to pay the cash settlement after Klein filed the complaint last November, Freiberg said. Attorney Maria G. Kanney, with Nessler and Associates, also represented Klein.
Last year, Klein claimed memories of the alleged abuse were repressed and suppressed, but he began to remember and recollect the events in 2016.
Klein alleges he has suffered and continues to suffer severe and permanent emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, humiliation and other injuries.
The plaintiff requested a trial by jury and sought damages of more than $50,000, plus costs expended for this action, The Madison County Record reported last year.
Although the complaint has been resolved, court records indicate Judge William Mudge still is scheduled to review the case Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 9 a.m. in Edwardsville.
In a statement issued by The Rev. Robert J. Carlson, archbishop of St. Louis, Zacheis has been retired from ministry without priestly faculties since 2010, due to alleged irregularities in finances for which he was responsible for as pastor of St. Anthony’s in Sullivan.
In keeping with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, an announcement about this allegation has been made in the archdiocesan newspaper, The St. Louis Review, and in the parishes where Father Zacheis served.
Father Zacheis served as associate pastor at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in south St. Louis from 1979-85; Christ, Prince of Peace in Manchester from 1985-88; and St. Matthias in Lemay from 1988-92.
In addition, he was pastor at St. Alban Roe in Wildwood from 2003-04.
Under the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which has been in place since 2002, “Dioceses are not to enter into settlements which bind the parties to confidentiality, unless the victim/survivor requests confidentiality and this request is noted in the text of the agreement.”
If requested by the victim, these confidentiality agreements post-2002 would apply to the Archdiocese’s ability to speak, not to the victim.
Freiberg said the complaint was filed in Illinois because some of the alleged incidents occurred in that state.
He added the Madison County Circuit Court is “known for large verdicts” and is “plaintiff-friendly.”
Freiberg further added there is a lengthier statute of limitations in Illinois for these type of complaints.
Anyone with reports of abuse of a minor involving a member of the clergy or other church personnel should contact Sandra Price, executive director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection, at 314-792-7271, the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800-392-3738 and/or law enforcement officials.