Rochester Catholic Schools, Diocese of Winona-Rochester named in sexual assault lawsuit dating back to 1970s

20 July 2023

ROCHESTER Rochester Catholic Schools, Lourdes High School and the Diocese of Winona-Rochester have all been named in a lawsuit focused on the sexual assault of a minor allegedly perpetrated roughly 50 years ago by a now-deceased priest.

The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday, July 19. However, it’s been in the works for years after originally being drafted in 2016, prior to the Diocese filing for bankruptcy as part of a settlement with more than 100 victims of sexual assault.

Rochester Catholic Schools released a brief statement Thursday in light of the case finally being filed.

“We are aware that litigation has been initiated related to sexual abuse claims stemming from the 1970s at Lourdes High School. This litigation was expected and contemplated in the Diocese bankruptcy case. Rochester Catholic Schools is committed to ensuring a safe environment for staff and all of those entrusted to our care. We cannot comment further on pending litigation at this time.”

According to the complaint, the former priest, Joseph Cashman, “engaged in unpermitted sexual contact” with a male student from approximately 1972 to 1974. The plaintiff was 14 to 16 years old at the time, meaning he would be in his mid-60s today.

The lawsuit demands compensation of $50,000 or more. According to Jeff Anderson and Associates, the law firm representing the plaintiff, Cashman worked at Lourdes High School from 1970-77.

The lawsuit only refers to the sexual abuse of the single student, referred to as Doe 222. However, a biography of Cashman on the Diocese’s website says there were multiple accusations of sexual assault brought against him.

“It also came to the attention of the Diocese of Winona that Joseph Cashman had been accused of sexual approaches made to several minor males prior to 1986 and then became aware of actual sexual contacts with minor students.”

The Diocese’s biography also says Cashman “had inappropriate sexual contact with a male seminarian (adult).”

Cashman took a leave of absence in 1992.

The current lawsuit is not the first time the Diocese of Winona-Rochester has dealt with allegations of sexual assault. In 2021, the Diocese reached a settlement of $28 million with more than 100 survivors of sexual assault.

Two years earlier in 2018, the Diocese declared Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

The lawsuits become possible following the 2013 Child Victims Act.

Anderson was unavailable for comment to clarify why the lawsuit is being filed now, considering it was originally drafted in 2016.

“We must never forget the tragic anguish caused by individuals who abused their power and positions of authority,” the Diocese’s former bishop, John Quinn, said in February 2021.


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