The Diocese of New Ulm is suing other churches

The Church of St. Thomas in the Diocese of New Ulm

The Church of St. Thomas in the Diocese of New Ulm

A Catholic diocese in Minnesota is suing both a diocese in Ireland and a controversial religious order, shifting responsibility for a dead priest who allegedly abused several children.

A lawsuit filed in February by the Diocese of New Ulm claims it never would have brought that priest into a Granite Falls parish in the 1980s had it known the truth of his past, according to a report by MPR and KARE-11.

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The priest in question is Father Francis Markey, an Irishman who was ordained in 1952 and assigned to a parish in the Diocese of Clogher. While there he was accused of abusing minors -- and suspended from ministry -- at least three times before clerics booted him out of the country in 1981.

Markey went first to the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, for treatment, despite repeated warnings over the years from its founder that the facility could do little for sexually deviant clerics.

Father Francis Markey's mug shot

Father Francis Markey's mug shot

"These men," wrote Father Gerald Fitzgerald, "are devils and the wrath of God is upon them... It is for this class of rattlesnake I have always wished the island retreat -- but even an island is too good for these vipers..."

By 1982, Markey had been stationed in Granite Falls, where he allegedly abused an 8-year-old boy while serving in the Diocese of New Ulm. The following decade, Markey headed to his new gig as chaplain of the Betty Ford Clinic, and things quieted down.

It wasn't 2010 that Markey was extradited back to Ireland on charges that he anally raped a 15-year-boy back in the late 60s. The old bugger died awaiting trial.

Late last year, the boy who says he was abused in Granite Falls filed a new lawsuit against the Diocese of New Ulm and the Servants of the Paraclete. The diocese, in turn, is blaming the servants and the Irish clerics for failing to warn them about Markey.

This isn't the first time holy men have pointed fingers at one another. In 2003, for instance, the Diocese of San Bernardino sued the Diocese of Boston but later dropped the lawsuit (and filed for bankruptcy on the eve of another trial). Historically, these legal battles have been a handy tool in shifting blame and financial burden.

Patrick Wall, a former priest who investigates clerical sexual abuse crimes, describes church-on-church court cases as a "massive car pile-up." One diocese tries to draw another into its legal mess, he says, and alert bill collectors that liability should be spread around.

-- Follow Jesse Marx on Twitter @marxjesse or send tips to [email protected]