Plaintiff seeks to drop suit against Catholic Church

Posted Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A former volunteer and lay minister is dropping his defamation lawsuit against the Catholic Church because he can no longer afford the high cost of pursuing the case.

Joseph Jordan was seeking to restore his reputation after he was banned from working within the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese following accusations of “boundary violations” with youth and young adults. He also was kicked out of the Knights of Columbus, where he had been a leader.

Jordan said that the church basically accused him of being a pedophile and a child molester.

Larry Thompson, Jordan’s attorney, filed a motion in late July to “nonsuit” the case without prejudice, meaning it could be refiled under the statute of limitations. State District Judge Bonnie Sudderth has not acted on Jordan’s request.

The decision to drop the lawsuit followed efforts by Thompson to obtain documents that would have provided information as to why Jordan was being banned. But the church has invoked its “ecclesiastical privilege” and successfully blocked their release, Thompson said.

“We wanted the investigation file which led to their [diocese officials] emails saying that Joseph could no longer participate in any activities involving youth in the church,” Thompson said. “We wanted to see who was saying what.”

The church has been arguing that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the case, saying that the case involves religious liberty issues and “matters of church discipline, conformity of church members to a standard of morality and matters of church governance.”

Mark Hatten, an attorney representing the diocese, said the church is following civil law in the case but declined to respond to Jordan’s motivations to dismiss the case.

“Out of respect for the personal privacy rights of all concerned, it does not appear appropriate to comment further on the details of the case,” Hatten said in a prepared statement.

Besides the diocese, Jordan’s suit also named former Bishop Kevin Vann, diocesan administrator Stephen Berg and staff members at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller.

Jordan had volunteered to take youth on ski trips and also took children on pilgrimages to see the pope when he visited the United States. He and his wife also taught a “child safety course that was implemented because of the numerous sex abuse scandals involving priests.”

In July 2012, Jordan was summoned to the Fort Worth diocese, where the church informed him that he was banned from all diocesan and Knights of Columbus activities.

Jordan was accused of “boundary violations” although specific details were not given. Letters outlining the ban involving him were circulated throughout the diocese, according to documents.

Thompson said that Jordan wanted to find out who had accused him of the boundary violations.

Meanwhile, Thompson said that Jordan is disappointed that he cannot take part in church activities, but he is moving ahead with his life.

Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696 Twitter: @fwstliz

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