The Archdiocese of Omaha asked the court this week to dismiss a $2.1 million lawsuit from a priest who resigned from his parish in West Point in 2018.
Along with seeking dismissal of the lawsuit brought by the Rev. Andy Syring, who was a 41-year-old priest who had been assigned to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in West Point when he resigned, the archdiocese has requested the case to be moved from Cuming County District Court to the federal court system.
Syring had served as associate pastor in West Point since 2016 and served the archdiocese from 2011 until his resignation in 2018. He was accused of inappropriate behavior with young people in Schuyler in 2014. He denied the allegations at the time and continues to do so, seeking recovery from lost wages and damages, along with court costs.
At the time he resigned in 2018, many St. Mary’s parishioners in West Point voiced their support for Syring. Then 41, Syring left St. Mary’s Catholic Church after Archbishop George Lucas’ promise to “hold clergy to a higher standard of ministerial conduct.”
Many of those who expressed support for Syring called it an “injustice” when he resigned.
In a 26-page response filed on Monday, the archdiocese moved the case to the U.S. District Court of Nebraska. Attorney Patrick M. Flood of Omaha wrote the response brief for the archdiocese.
Flood wrote in part, “A complaint should be dismissed if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff is unable to prove facts in support of her claims which entitle her to relief,” and cited the court case,” from Hafley v. Lohman, 8th Cir. 1996).
Flood said the court “serves to eliminate actions which are fatally flawed in their legal premises and designed to fail, thereby sparing litigants the burden of unnecessary pretrial and trial activity.”
“In this case, each of Plaintiff’s six claims fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,” Flood wrote.
In addition, the lawsuit defends the Nov. 30, 2018, publishing of a press release by the archdiocese that listed church personnel accused of criminal sexual misconduct with minors since 1978. Syring, who often is referred to as “Father Andy” in the lawsuit, was on the list.
The archdiocese was accused of inflicting emotional distress upon Syring, acting “in extreme and outrageous conduct in accusing Father Andy of a serious and odious crime, which it knew he has not committed.”
“These conclusory allegations do not include sufficient facts to support any theory of intentional conduct. The Archdiocese’s publication was an ‘intentional act’ in the ordinary use of those words because the Archdiocese intended to publish its list.
“However, the publication falls short of the Second Restatement’s definition of intentional conduct because there are no facts pled which suggest that the Archdiocese desired to inflict severe emotional distress, or knew that such distress was certain, or substantially certain, to result from its conduct,” the response states.
“Further, the Complaint falls short of properly alleging reckless conduct because there are no facts pled which would show that the Archdiocese acted in deliberate disregard of a high degree of probability that emotional distress would follow. Finally, all the conduct alleged was a permissible expression on the part of the Archdiocese, which it was legally entitled to make,” according to the response.