Archbishop John J. Liebrecht and Father Phillip Bucher have been dropped as defendants in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed last year by Glenna McKitterick of Branson.
According to documents filed Tuesday in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the counts against both men have been dismissed with prejudice, meaning they cannot be filed again. Usually, this indicates that some kind of settlement has been reached, though there is no mention of a settlement in the court documents.
Remaining as defendants in the case are Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau,Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, and Our Lady of the Ozarks Catholic Church.
Glenna McKitterick was the sole proprietor of Discipleship Ministry Resources when she was hired by the church on July 1, 2002 for a two-year term as a pastoral associate.
Her responsibilities, she said, were training coordination "for an evangelization program and model for the church and its parishes." Bucher was the pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church and served as Bishop Liebrecht's vicar general.
Shortly after her employment, Ms. McKitterick claims, she began having to fend off Bucher's unwelcome advances, which included"
-"Unwelcome questioning by Bucher about plaintiff's personal sex life and her intimate sexual likes and dislikes.
-"Bucher's regular recounting to plaintiffs of his own personal sex life and details of his intimate sexual likes and dislikes, including his sexual dislikes with his then 'girlfriend,' (whose name is given in the lawsuit, but which is not going to be listed here).
-"Plaintiff being 'hushed' during business meetings in the parish offices, so plaintiff would not be overheard by Bucher's girlfriend when Bucher and the girlfriend were talking on the telephone.
-"Plaintiff being invited to 'business' dinners with Bucher, which he began conducting like personal dates.
-"Plaintiff being subjected to Bucher's unwelcome comments about his personal preferences 'as a man' regarding plaintiff's makeup, etc., to which plaintiff objected.
-"Numerous uncomfortable private 'hugs' by Bucher which he defended as 'pastoral' and which he repeatedly attempted even after being rebuked by plaintiff.
-"Regular telephone calls by Bucher to plaintiff at her home in the evening about personal matters.
-"Regular romantic and sexually suggestive remarks and advances by Bucher."
Ms. McKitterick says Bucher's actions created "a hostile work environment."
She claims that Liebrecht and other church officials had been warned about Bucher's problem and they should have known he was likely to sexually harass her.
Ms. McKitterick was fired after she made a written complaint against Bucher in a letter dated Jan. 12, 2004, one of a series she had made, according to the lawsuit.
After the Jan. 12 letter, she received a call from the church's lawyer who said, "Bucher has terminated you." Her last day of work was Jan. 16, 2004, five and a half months before the end of her contract. The firing, she said, "was retaliation against plaintiff for her reporting and complaining about the sexual harassment and hostile work environment."
Ms. McKitterick is asking for "lost earnings and employment benefits; for such punitive damages as are proven at trial; for reasonable attorneys' fees; and for such other relief as may be appropriate."
She is also suing church officials for misrepresentation, saying they had told her that "if she became employed by the church, Bucher would not sexually harass her nor would he create a hostile work environment for her."
An additional count charges church officials with copyright infringement, claiming that Ms. McKitterick owns the rights to her work, "Discipleship: An Old Model for a New Day," registered Aug. 3, 2001, with the U. S. Copyright Office. "Since Jan. 16, 2004, the Church, Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church and Our Lady of the Ozarks Catholic Church without the consent or permission of plaintiff; have claimed a copyright interest in plaintiff's work and have distributed and collected the benefits, revenue and profits from the work and from derivatives of the work."
She claims Bucher and Liebrecht supervised the infringement of her work. She is asking for $150,000 for each copyright infringement, attorneys' fees, and interest.
Ms. McKitterick now serves as president of LAMPS, a national group that is seeking reform in the Catholic Church.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau includes all of the Catholic churches in the Joplin/Springfield area.