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Reverend Joseph Matt, a Missouri priest who fathered a child with a married woman, is being sued along with the diocese. The priest was sued in an anonymous lawsuit filed by the woman's husband.
The woman's husband wants to keep his name out of the lawsuit to protect the identity of the child.
Rev. Matt admitted to having an affair with the husband's wife for an extended period of time in 2004 and 2005. The man said that his wife turned to the reverend for counseling after she had lost her job.
Rev. Matt had served on the diocese's marriage tribunal. That is when the affair began - and when the child was conceived.
The husband alleges that Rev. Matt misrepresented that he was offering spiritual counseling and guidance. The lawsuit also claims that both the reverend and the diocese committed fraud by not revealing the sexual affair.
Cases of clergymen abusing their positions of power with their ministry are not unheard of. In fact, there are criminal statutes in place in certain states that prohibit such activity. In Minnesota a clergyman can be found guilty of third-degree sexual misconduct if sexual penetration occurs during a counseling session.
Several other states have similar statutes on their books. Missouri is not one of them.
Why do these laws even need to exist? It's likely that they are meant to protect emotionally vulnerable individuals from potential abuse.
But the priest was sued in Missouri, where there isn't similar legislation. This is likely why the husband in this case alleged fraud. Cases of fraud hinge on whether or not there was an intentional misrepresentation of the facts. Did the diocese cover up the fact that the priest fathered the child? Did Rev. Matt try to cover up his own deeds? These are all questions for a jury, if it gets that far.
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