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Files on former pastor contradict archdiocese's statements about abuse

HASTINGS, Minn. -- Documents released Thursday contradict the Twin Cities archdiocese’s assertion that it had no knowledge about a former Hastings pastor’s abuse of children until the mid-1990s.

Thomas Stitts was an assistant pastor at the Church of Guardian Angels in Hastings from 1966 to 1970. He was alleged to have abused boys at several of the parishes where he worked. Stitts, who died in 1985, admitted to having a sexual relationship with two boys.

Twin Cities law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates has filed lawsuits on behalf of 12 victims who say they were abused by Stitts.

“We applaud the courageous survivors who have come forward and who helped make today possible,” Anderson said. “We are working with 16 survivors of Stitts who have been suffering in secrecy, silence and shame, and all have fought hard to make sure this file was made known to the public to help protect children in the future.”

The documents were released to the public after a ruling in other cases relating to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Many items in the files are letters between Stitts and other members of the archdiocese, and they go back to the 1970s and 1980s.

Lawsuits regarding Stitts were filed against the archdiocese in 1993. When the suits became public in 1995, the archdiocese said it had no knowledge Stitts was an abuser until 1993.

However, the letters contained within the file contradict those statements.

The Most Rev. John R. Roach, archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis at the time, received a letter dated Sept. 1, 1980, from a parishioner whose son was allegedly molested by Stitts in 1973 at a different parish, St. Leo’s in St. Paul. It reads, in part: “ … We do share the serious concern … that other boys not continue to be victimized in this manner. Our son is now 18 and there is no doubt in our minds that his confusion over his own sexuality may have root in this early experience with sex at the hands of such an important authority figure.”

One of the lawsuits from 1993 involved an 11-year-old altar boy at Guardian Angels in Hastings.

The suit claimed the boy was molested in the church rectory and after Mass while he was performing duties as an altar boy.