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Doe v. F.P.

August 19, 2003

MARY DOE, ET AL., APPELLANTS,
v.
F.P., RESPONDENT DIOCESE OF WINONA, RESPONDENT.



Hennepin County District Court File No. PI-01-17801

Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Wright, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. When a cleric and another person engage in mutual discussions of personal problems and regard their relationship as between equals, their conversations are not psychotherapy within the meaning of Minn. Stat. §á148A.01, subd. 6 (2002).

2. Minn. Stat. §á 609.344, subd. 1(l) (2002), and Minn. Stat. §á609.345, subd. 1(l) (2002), do not violate the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harten, Judge

OPINION

Based on the sexual relationship between appellant Mary Doe and respondent F.P., a Catholic priest of respondent Diocese of Winona (the diocese), Mary Doe and her husband, appellant John Doe, brought claims against respondents for sexual abuse/sexual exploitation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and loss of consortium. They also asserted claims against the diocese for negligent hiring and retention, negligent supervision, and strict liability, and a claim against F.P. for breach of fiduciary duty.

Appellants moved for leave to add a claim for punitive damages. Respondents moved for summary judgment. The district court denied appellants' motion and granted summary judgment to respondents on all claims. Appellants challenge the denial of their motion; the summary judgment granted on the claim under Minn. Stat. §á148A.03 (2002); the dismissal of claims under Minn. Stat. §á609.344, subd. 1(l) (2002), and Minn. Stat. §á609.345, subd. 1(l) (2002), based on the conclusion that those statutes facially violate the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, and the dismissal of the derivative claims.*fn1

FACTS

Appellants John and Mary Doe and their three young children were members of the Catholic parish in Currie, Minnesota. Mary Doe worked part-time as a musician for the parish.

In summer 1987, F.P., a priest, was assigned to the Currie parish. He got to know Mary Doe in her capacity as a musician and became a friend of the Doe family. F.P. and Mary Doe met weekly to plan the music for services. They developed what both regarded as a close friendship; in F.P.'s words, they "fell in love" and mutually disclosed intimate details of their lives: in F.P.'s case, these included his sexual relationships with other women; in Mary Doe's case, they included her disappointing involvement with the charismatic movement, her fears of alcoholism, and her dissatisfaction with her marriage. F.P. advised Mary Doe to see a counselor for her family problems and a substance abuse expert for her alcoholism; he also recommended a spiritual advisor for her. Mary Doe saw all three of these professionals on an ongoing basis. The sexual component of the relationship between Mary Doe and F.P. began with hugs and had progressed to sexual touching by 1992.

In July 1993, F.P. was transferred from Currie to Mankato, about 90 miles away. F.P. visited the Doe family in Currie about once a month; Mary Doe, sometimes with a member or members of her family, also visited him in Mankato. Many of these visits involved sexual contact between F.P. and Mary Doe. The relationship ended in 1998, after Mary Doe discovered that F.P. was sexually involved with another woman. She and her husband eventually brought this action against F.P. and the diocese. The district court dismissed the action, and this appeal followed.

ISSUES

1. Did F.P. provide psychotherapy to Mary Doe within the meaning of Minn. Stat. ...


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