A teenage mom, a baby boy and allegations of an “adoption conspiracy.”
It would all result in a lawsuit a former Omaha woman filed in Douglas County District Court last year against the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus.
The case found its way to the Nebraska Supreme Court, which on Friday affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of the suit.
The suit was filed by Kathleen Chafin, whose son was adopted by an Omaha couple in 1968 when Chafin was 19. Chafin previously told The World-Herald that a priest coerced her to give up her baby for adoption.
That suit alleged, in part, that a local Jesuit priest “abused his position of authority over Chafin in furtherance of the defendants’ adoption conspiracy.”
The Wisconsin Province has called the allegations “unfounded and untrue.” The archdiocese also denied the allegations.
Both organizations filed motions last year in district court to dismiss the suit, arguing in part that because the adoption occurred in the late 1960s, it is beyond the statute of limitations.
District Court Judge Shelly Stratman last year gave Chafin’s attorney time to file an amended complaint to clarify the claims.
Stratman eventually dismissed the case last year. Chafin appealed the decision.
The Supreme Court said the four-year statute of limitations for such lawsuits can be waived if a plaintiff can prove that misconduct was fraudulently concealed from them. But the ruling, written by Justice William Cassel, said that Chafin would have known decades ago that her baby was being adopted and that she had failed, “with particularity,” to detail how facts were concealed from her.
Chafin’s pleading, the court ruled, “simply does not tell us the who, what, when, where, and how.”
Ben Maxell, Chafin’s attorney, said he could have learned those details through depositions of Jesuit and archdiocesan officials if the case had been allowed to proceed.
“We would have been able to prove the Catholic Church fraudulently concealed details in this case,’’ he said.
Chafin, who was reunited with her son in 2015, said the statute of limitations only protects the church and keeps the truth from coming out.
She said she is not done with the case and wants to pursue any legal options to keep it alive. Maxell said he will explore those options.
Officials with the Wisconsin Province could not be reached for comment Friday.
A spokesman for the archdiocese said the Supreme Court “made the right decision.”
Chafin’s story was the focus of an article in The World-Herald last year.
World-Herald staff writer Paul Hammel contributed to this report.