Bishop Accountability

Mahony Resources – October 2003

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Letters to the Editor
Catholic Laity Is Secure Only in Its Faith

Los Angeles Times
October 4, 2003

"Nun's Job Loss Puts Focus on Laity's Role" (Sept. 27) highlights some very archaic practices in the Catholic Church, and it brings to mind the old, simple adage that, at times, "the truth hurts." It also makes it very clear that all of us, clergy and church administrators included, need to take responsibility for our own actions.

We parishioners at St. Brendan Church were blessed to have Sister Judy Molosky take up the helm after our pastor's departure. We were fortunate to have her dedicated care and leadership during a very difficult time for our parish. We were also honored with Bishop Joseph Sartoris' wisdom and warm nature as he worked with Sister Judy and our competent staff to help us regain our inner peace and spark our giving spirit so that we could use it for the benefit of others.

As I expressed in a letter to Cardinal Roger Mahony, I believe that we desperately need the Sister Judys of the world as pastoral associates, in addition to the help of deacons, dedicated church musicians, lay teachers and more. The clergy cannot do this alone. We need a plethora of talented and giving people who can help bolster the foundation of our church so that our faith, and the goodness within our church, can evolve and grow in strength in an ever-changing society.

Pat Edouarde
Los Angeles


Another headline could have been "Church Silent; Laity Loses." That nuns are lay people was crystal clear. Molosky lost her job. The lay people at St. Brendan Church lost a caring, capable pastoral minister. The archdiocese is silent. A priest who is quoted will not identify himself for "fear of retribution" -- from whom? The pastor who chose not to renew Molosky's contract after only three weeks in his position, afraid of being seen as a "dinosaur," defends his action by saying that "the whole situation has been blown out of proportion." He gets to go to graduate school while Molosky has to find another job to support herself and to contribute to the support of other women in her order. Silence and distortion are exactly why those in the laity need to reclaim their power in parishes. The laity deserve better from the church. I hope they vote with their feet and their checkbooks.

Sister Jo'Ann De Quattro
Sister of the Holy Names Los Angeles

Ruling Spurs Confusion in Old Sex Abuse Cases

By Jean Guccione and Anna Gorman
Los Angeles Times
October 5, 2003

Jose Antonio Vasquez was arrested and jailed last year after DNA tests showed he had fathered the child of a teenager he allegedly raped 10 years ago. This year, a judge freed him, citing a U.S.Supreme Court decision blocking California's attempt to revive criminal prosecutions in older sex abuse cases.

Raul Juarez isn't as lucky. Citing the same high court ruling, a different judge decided that 1988 rape allegations against him would stand.

The two cases illustrate the confusion and uncertainty in California courts since the decision. There is no agreement on the most basic ground rule: how to apply the ruling.

Even though the two defendants faced similar charges for crimes committed a few years apart, two Los Angeles judges made rulings with contradictory outcomes. Their cases were identified in a review of hundreds of cases by prosecutors and defense attorneys since the Supreme Court ruling in June.

After the ruling, authorities predicted hundreds of cases would be dismissed, releasing a potential flood of child molesters into communities that would have no way to track them.

So far, slightly more than 50 inmates have been released from state prisons, including about a dozen convicted of crimes in Los Angeles County, according to the California Department of Corrections.

The most visible cases dismissed so far have been those of Roman Catholic priests accused of sexually assaulting children. Others may involve teachers accused of molesting students, parents accused of abusing their children and coaches accused of victimizing players.

The Supreme Court ruled that California had violated the U.S. Constitution when it passed a law retroactively extending the period for prosecuting those who sexually abused children. The 1994 law gave prosecutors one year after notification of such a crime to file criminal charges, no matter how long ago the incident occurred.

The main issue that attorneys and judges are grappling with now is determining the cut-off date for prosecution, based on the Supreme Court decision.

"It's not as clear as everybody thinks it is," said Gigi Gordon, a defense lawyer appointed by the court to review hundreds of cases for indigent inmates.

Defense attorneys argue that all cases alleging crimes that occurred before 1994 -- the date the California law went into effect -- should be thrown out. Prosecutors counter that only cases from before 1988 should be dismissed. Crimes that took place in the six years between 1988 and 1994 should be fair game, prosecutors say, because the statute of limitations had not expired on those crimes before the law was enacted.

Applying the new Supreme Court decision has been especially frustrating for prosecutors, whose job usually is putting criminals behind bars.

"We have to do our job whether we like it or not," said John K. Spillane, who is overseeing the review of hundreds of the cases for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

The legal process doesn't end when a judge throws out a conviction. DNA samples must be removed from the state database. Names must be stricken from sex offender registries. And court fines and fees assessed at conviction must be refunded.

"All those things have to be undone because they couldn't happen in the first place," said Judge David S. Wesley, who presides over the criminal courts in Los Angeles County.

The final tally of cases affected by the Supreme Court ruling is far from complete. In Los Angeles County alone, prosecutors and defense lawyers are reviewing more than 750 cases.

"It's been a very time-consuming process," said Michael Goodman, a deputy alternate public defender who works in the appellate division.

It took almost eight weeks just to compile a master list of cases for review, because early computer runs were incomplete. Lawyers are now digging through archives to retrieve dusty files that were closed long ago, and sifting through documents spread around 43 courthouses throughout the county.

The ruling "caught everybody by surprise," said Dave LaBahn, executive director of the California District Attorney's Assn. in Sacramento.

Surprisingly, few inmates have inquired about their cases, according to defense attorneys. Victims have urged prosecutors to look for new allegations that fall within permissible time limits and that could prevent a defendant from being released.

"We want them to continue to look for victims," said Mark Kelegian, legal advisor for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. "It never happens just once."

Kelegian pointed to the case of Michael Wempe, a retired Roman Catholic priest who had been charged with sexual abuse in cases dating to the 1970s. The charges were dismissed because of the high court ruling. But Wempe was rearrested last month after a victim read about the dismissals and came forward to allege that Wempe had molested him.

The earlier charges against Wempe involved alleged crimes committed before 1988, and therefore authorities agreed that they had to be dismissed under the court decision. The new charges related to acts allegedly committed later -- between 1990 and 1995.

Many cases involve multiple criminal charges over several years -- with some counts affected by the Supreme Court ruling and others not. Defendants charged in these "hybrid" cases are expected to be retried or re-sentenced, but not released.

The ruling also creates challenging scenarios that reflect the complexity of the criminal justice system. What happens, for example, to the child molester who was charged with committing abuse in the '70s and the '90s, and confessed to the older charges as prosecutors dismissed the more recent ones? The conviction based on the older incident must be dismissed, but can prosecutors resurrect the more recent charges?

Or, in another scenario, is a defendant entitled to a new trial because jurors heard evidence of sexual abuse charges that are no longer valid?

"There are a lot of unanswered questions," said Assistant Public Defender Lon Sarnoff, who is monitoring the review for his office. "We have found that many of these slam-dunks are not slam-dunks."

Even after a case is sorted out to comply with the law, there can be significant tactical questions.

Today, state law requires that defendants in these cases serve at least 85% of their sentences. But older rules allowed parole after half the sentence had been served. The result is that some inmates who face prosecution on new charges if some counts are dismissed may discover that they would serve less time if they remained in prison and served out their original prison terms.

Vasquez, 59, was freed although DNA tests confirmed that he had fathered a child with the girl in 1993, and even though he had admitted to committing lewd acts with the victim, according to prosecutors.

Vasquez had been awaiting trial for more than a year when Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert P. O'Neill dismissed all 24 counts against him.

In the other case, Juarez was released from jail in July after retired Judge Randolph Moore dismissed five felony counts against him.

But at the prosecutor's request, Judge Patricia M. Schnegg last month reinstated two of the counts of forcible rape, which allegedly occurred in 1988 and 1989.

Juarez, 49, is expected to plead no contest to the remaining counts this month, and remain free, prosecutors said.

Both cases appear headed for the state appeals court.

Group Opposes Honor for Priest
Sex abuse survivors say toasting O.C.'s Msgr. Baird is an insult because he defended a tainted cleric and sued a woman for slander

By David Haldane
LA Times
October 6, 2003,1,2466605.story

A Roman Catholic group representing victims of molestation by priests has called for the cancellation of a dinner Friday honoring a priest it says is tainted by the church's sex abuse scandal.

Msgr. Lawrence J. Baird, former spokesman for the Diocese of Orange and now its director of development, is scheduled to be honored as a "Defender of the Faith" with a dinner hosted by St. Michael's Abbey on behalf of its parochial school, St. Michael's Preparatory. But the regional director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a national support group with 5,000 members, says the event should be canceled because Baird once defended a fellow priest known by church officials to be a molestation risk and, more recently, responded to allegations of sexual impropriety against himself by unsuccessfully suing his accuser for slander.

"This is not what Jesus would do," Mary Grant, SNAP's southwest regional director, said of the gala event at Mission San Juan Capistrano. "We should not hold up that kind of un-Christian behavior as a model."

Said John C. Manley, a Catholic attorney representing several people who say they were sexually abused by priests: "This is not the type of person that is a defender of my faith, and it's not what I was taught about faith. Honestly, I would rather eat out of a trash can than eat that dinner."

Baird, who has never been charged with a crime nor been subject to any legal proceedings alleging wrongdoing on his part, said late last week that he had spoken on behalf of the accused priest before being aware of information pointing to his guilt that was known to other church officials. As for the slander lawsuit he filed, he said, "Everyone possesses the right to file a lawsuit, and I pursued a legal avenue that was available to me and every citizen."

In a letter to Grant, the Right Rev. Eugene J. Hayes, abbot of St. Michael's, an Orange County institution, said the dinner — expected to raise about $150,000 in scholarships for needy students — is critical to the abbey's prep school fund-raising efforts. "Canceling the dinner," he wrote, "would hurt most of all the young men who depend on us for a quality Catholic education."

And in similar letters to both Grant and Manley, Marjorie DeClue — writing on behalf of the prep school's lay board of advisors — defended the decision to honor Baird and Msgr. Paul Martin, a retired pastor at Mission San Juan Capistrano. Both men, she wrote, enjoy a "long-standing friendship with St. Michael's that dates back to the '60s. The quality of the school's educational program would not be what it is today without the friendships of these two strong supporters. Each has made financial sacrifices over the years to help students attend St. Michael's."

The tensions between Baird and members of what Grant calls the "survivor community" date from 1994, when accusations of sexual misconduct first surfaced against fellow priest Michael A. Harris, the former principal of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana and, later, Santa Margarita High School in south Orange County.

Harris was placed on administrative leave and sent to St. Luke's Institute in Maryland — the Catholic Church's medical treatment center for troubled priests. There, doctors concluded that he was sexually attracted to adolescent boys, that "there is substance to the allegations" and that the allegations were probably just the tip of the iceberg.

Eventually, the Los Angeles and Orange dioceses settled with one of Harris' alleged victims for $5.2 million, and the man once nicknamed "Father Hollywood" because of his good looks and charisma was removed from the priesthood. Yet just days after the St. Luke findings were conveyed to church officials — but before they were made public — Baird, acting in his capacity as diocesan spokesman, defended Harris to newspaper reporters as "an icon to the priesthood."

"He's never apologized," said Manley, adding that some of his clients who are alleged victims of Harris were deeply hurt by Baird's statement, even to the point of feeling suicidal. "Anyone who would go to a dinner to honor someone who did that needs to seriously examine their conscience."

Baird also found himself in SNAP's crosshairs last year after filing the slander lawsuit against Lori Haigh of San Francisco, who had accused him of sexual impropriety. Haigh had won a $1.2-million settlement from the church after saying she had been molested and impregnated as a teenager by Father John Lenihan, once a South County priest. In announcing the settlement, Haigh told reporters that she had sought Baird's help 20 years before while still being abused and that he had responded by making sexual advances toward her.

Baird immediately called a news conference, vigorously denied any misconduct and later filed the lawsuit. It was eventually dismissed by a judge, who ordered the priest to pay Haigh's legal costs.

To date, according to her lawyer, Katherine Freberg, that debt — about $60,000 — has not been paid.

Priests Want Married Clergy Discussed
Some in L.A. area want Mahony to raise the idea nationally and with the pope. A spokesman says he does not plan to do so

By Teresa Watanabe
Los Angeles Times
October 11, 2003

Some Los Angeles area Roman Catholic priests are urging an open discussion on whether to allow married clergy as one solution to the growing priest shortage, and say they hope Cardinal Roger M. Mahony will raise the issue to church authorities nationally and in Rome.

Calls to discuss the option of a married clergy came earlier this week at an annual assembly which drew about half of the Los Angeles Archdiocese's 1,200 priests. Similar requests are increasing across the nation but also are triggering strong resistance.

Mahony, who last year became the first American cardinal to support discussions about a married clergy despite Pope John Paul II's opposition to them, does not plan to raise the issue at higher church levels, Los Angeles archdiocesan spokesman Tod Tamberg said Friday.

"The cardinal believes that any such discussion should begin at the grass-roots level," Tamberg said in a written response to questions.

But Tamberg added that Mahony's support for open discussions did not imply an endorsement of married clergy and said the cardinal agreed with the pope's recent comments that "celibacy is fitting for the priesthood."

Still, many priests lauded Mahony for allowing the debate on a topic considered taboo a decade or two ago. Celibacy has been a cornerstone of the Roman Catholic priesthood for more than a thousand years, and many priests say that efforts to even discuss it had been suppressed until recent years.

"We have made an extraordinary shift in the last 10 years," said Msgr. Clement J. Connolly of Holy Family Church in South Pasadena. "It's a new day when we can even talk about this now with respectability and a certain reverence and understanding."

Support for discussing the issue was not unanimous, however, according to participants who attended the meeting at the Cathedral Center downtown. Opposition was particularly strong from many younger priests who are strongly influenced by Pope John Paul II and some priests from foreign countries who work in Los Angeles. Objecting to a debate on a subject the pope has deemed closed, they said efforts should be made instead to recruit more men for the priesthood.

"Rome knows what it's doing," said Father Donatus Ekanachi, a Nigerian native and associate pastor of St. Raymond Church in Downey. "The Catholic Church has one head, and anyone who challenges that head becomes a rebel."

But those discussions are becoming more common. In August, more than 160 Milwaukee-area priests signed a letter to the nation's bishops urging that the priesthood be opened to married men, and other priest associations representing more than 700 members in Boston, New York, Chicago and elsewhere have said they plan to back them.

That letter was denounced, however, by the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, a national organization of more than 600 priests, who expressed "unequivocal support for the ancient discipline of priestly celibacy."

In Los Angeles, the discussion about married clergy came during a presentation on how to maintain Eucharistic celebrations -- the Catholic Church's central act of worship -- amid an escalating shortage of priests who can perform them, according to some of those at the meeting.

The archdiocese distributed stark figures detailing how the growing Catholic population and declining clerical ranks in its territory of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties have produced a ratio of one active diocesan priest for every 11,500 parishioners. That ratio, the highest in the nation, has nearly doubled since 1991.

The priests pondered possible other solutions to the shortage, including sharing priests between parishes and reducing the number of Masses.

But the priests who advocated married clergy said they were prompted by fears that depriving the faithful of the Eucharist's spiritual sustenance could have serious repercussions.

"The right to the Eucharist is a more important right and value than a celibate clergy," said Father Jarlath Cunnane of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Los Angeles, who supports a married clergy.

Another supporter, Msgr. David O'Connell of St. Michael Church in Los Angeles, said that opening the priesthood to married men would also allow parish leaders to emerge in their communities. Currently, most priests parachute into churches in a revolving-door system that many say can be disruptive to parish life.

Msgr. Terrence Richey said he told Mahony during an "open mike" session that many priests wanted "the discussions to go on among clergy and bishops in a way that is not seen as being disloyal to the church." Richey said Mahony "basically agreed with those sentiments."

But, participants said, opposition to such sentiments was voiced in a way that took many priests by surprise: open booing by younger clerics.

That reflected an ideological divide among priests ordained during the reform years of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s and those who entered the priesthood during the 25-year papacy of Pope John Paul II, who has celebrated the value of celibacy.

(Currently, some married Protestant ministers who convert to Roman Catholicism have been allowed to become priests.)

"The older guys are the ones who bring up this stuff and it's disheartening to the younger guys," said Father Marcos Gonzalez of St. Andrew Church in Pasadena. "The real issue is that we need to promote vocations to the priesthood."

Gonzalez and other younger priests said if any discussion is to occur, it must be a "more balanced" one that included the virtues of celibacy.

"If we allowed married clergy, we'd be losing something valuable -- the significance of a celibate priest as a man of God dedicated to God, church and family with an undivided heart," he said.

Nationwide, support for opening the priesthood to married men is high among both priests and the public. A Los Angeles Times poll last year found that 69% of 1,854 priests surveyed nationally supported ordaining married men in the Latin rite. Among American Roman Catholic laity, support for married clergy has grown from 63% in 1987 to 71% in 1999, according to the Gallup Organization.

Suit Levels New Charges Against Priest

By Jean Guccione
LA Times
October 16, 2003,1,5519173.story

In a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic dioceses of Orange and Los Angeles on Wednesday, a former altar boy makes new allegations against a priest who has admitted in previous court cases to having molested many youths during a 25-year career in the two counties.

The suit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, joins more than two dozen molestation-related cases filed against the Orange diocese that will be the subject of intense negotiations beginning next month. Lawyers for the alleged victims and the diocese have agreed to separate the cases from hundreds of others against the Los Angeles Archdiocese in an attempt to reach settlements.

The latest plaintiff accuses the Rev. Eleuterio Victor Ramos of sexually abusing him over two years beginning in 1978, when he was 8, in such locations as a drive-in movie theater and a church rectory. The boy attended Immaculate Heart Church in Santa Ana, where Ramos was an associate pastor. Four years later, the suit says, Ramos and three other men gang-raped him in a motel room in San Diego, where the boy was visiting.

The Times does not name victims or alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent. His attorney, John Manly of Costa Mesa, said the diocese is negligent because officials knew that Ramos had sexually abused other children before his client was victimized. Manly said Ramos was sent out of state for treatment three times.

"I think the reality is that there were really two perpetrators," he said. "There was Ramos, who had admitted what he had done, and the succeeding bishops of Orange who have yet to admit what they did."

The Rev. Joseph Fenton, a spokesman for the Diocese of Orange, declined to comment on the suit because he had not seen it. "I know there have been problems with him," Fenton said. "But these are new allegations."

Ramos, known to parishioners as Father Al, was ordained in 1966 in the Los Angeles Archdiocese and transferred to the Diocese of Orange when it was created in 1976. He was suspended from ministry in 1991.

He was the subject of at least two prior molestation lawsuits that the diocese settled — one in 1993 and another in 1994. In a letter to one of the boys included in the court record of one case, Ramos admitted molesting the boy and other boys.

In the letter he said he had been a victim of sexual abuse himself as a child.

A decade after those cases were resolved, another alleged victim of Ramos called police in Los Angeles, who referred the case to the city of Orange. Interviewed by detectives in May, Ramos said he had sex with or fondled at least 25 boys and gave police the names of five victims, including the former altar boy, according to a police report filed as part of the lawsuit.

Despite the police investigation, Ramos, 63, has not been charged with any sex crimes because all of the alleged abuse took place before 1988 and can no longer be prosecuted under a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The suit also names as defendants various diocesan officials and three centers that allegedly treated Ramos for the church: St. Luke's Institute in Maryland, Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico and House of Affirmation in Fall River, Mass.

Challenge to Abuse Law Questioned
Alleged victims of priest ask Stockton diocese to drop its legal bid to have the statute of limitations waiver declared unconstitutional

By Jean Guccione
LA Times
October 17, 2003,1,5977927.story

Two people who say they were molested by a Roman Catholic priest asked church lawyers Thursday to drop their challenge to the constitutionality of a new law that opened California courthouses to hundreds of similar victims.

Daniel Howard and Cristin Perez urged the Diocese of Stockton to withdraw the legal challenge to their lawsuit.

"We simply ask that the courts be able to hear our cases and render justice based on the merits," Perez wrote in a prepared statement distributed by a victims' group.

Other alleged victims of clergy abuse also urged bishops in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino to embrace the law. They said the Stockton diocese was attempting to avoid responsibility for sexual assaults on children.

"It sends a terrible message to sexual abuse survivors, and Catholics across California, that a Catholic bishop is more concerned with legal maneuvering and overturning a strong public mandate instead of working with survivors to provide prevention, justice and health," states a letter delivered Wednesday to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from members of the Survivor Network of Those Abused by Priests.

In the Stockton case, attorney Paul N. Balestracci, who represents the diocese, filed a motion to dismiss a case by the brother and sister who alleged that they were molested by the Rev. Oliver O'Grady.

O'Grady was convicted of abusing their brothers in 1994 and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

The siblings had previously sued the diocese in 1994 and 1995, but a judge dismissed their cases because their allegations were too old.

They claimed to have been molested as long ago as 1978, beyond the statute of limitations, the legal deadline for filing lawsuits.

Balestracci said Thursday that the Legislature cannot "undo a [court's] final judgment" because it would violate the separation of powers doctrine.

"Once the court has made its decision final, the Legislature can't tamper with it," he said, calling the law a "substantial infringement on the courts."

But attorney Larry Drivon, who won a $30-million jury verdict against the Stockton diocese in another case involving sexual abuse by O'Grady, said the law was specifically written to allow victims whose cases were thrown out on the legal technicality that the plaintiffs had waited too long to sue, to renew their claims in court.

"The Legislature has power to write laws that are retroactive as long as they are procedural and not substantive," said Drivon, who represented the siblings of those alleged victims in the earlier O'Grady case. In that case, the trial judge later reduced the verdict to $13 million, including $8 million in punitive damages.

No judge or jury ever decided those cases on their merits, he said. Instead, they were dismissed and a judgment entered on a strictly procedural basis.

The same legal argument was made earlier this year in an unrelated San Bernardino case, but those proceedings were put on hold as attorneys are trying to mediate a settlement.

The law challenged by the church in the Stockton case temporarily suspended the statute of limitations in all child molestation cases, giving victims until Dec. 31 to file their claims.

Attorney J. Michael Hennigan, who represents the Los Angeles archdiocese, said there are a number of constitutional problems with the law. He said he hopes to settle all of the claims against the church, even those that he believes are legally flawed.

But if those cases are not settled and do go to trial, Hennigan said, he too would ask a judge to invalidate the law on constitutional grounds.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned another California law that allowed accused child molesters to be criminally prosecuted for decades-old crimes.

The Stockton judge could be the first in the state to decide a constitutional challenge to the new law. A hearing is set for next month.

Suit Links 6 Accused Priests to Parish
A lawyer for the L.A. Archdiocese denies that Santa Clara Church in Oxnard was a 'dumping ground' for pedophile clergymen

By Jean Guccione
LA Times
October 28, 2003,1,7026507.story

At least six priests who are accused of molesting children worked or spent time at the same parish, Santa Clara Roman Catholic Church in Oxnard, between 1962 and 1996, according to a lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The suit was filed on behalf of 16 men and a woman who say they were molested as children by five of those priests between 1959 and 1985.

"It is doubtful any child could have grown up at Santa Clara Parish from the 1960s through the 1990s without being exposed to a pedophile priest," attorney Raymond P. Boucher wrote in the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The six priests — Donald Patrick Roemer, George Miller, Carl Sutphin, Roderic Guerrini, Stephen Hernandez and Gerald Fessard — were "some of the most prolific pedophiles within the Los Angeles Archdiocese," the lawsuit states.

Roemer and Fessard are convicted child molesters, according to the civil complaint. Child molestation charges against Miller and Sutphin were dropped this year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the sex-abuse allegations against them were too old to prosecute. Neither Guerrini nor Hernandez has been charged with crimes.

Although the suit focuses on the Santa Clara Parish, only four of the plaintiffs were parishioners there during the time they say they were sexually abused by priests, according to the complaint. Seven others were allegedly abused by priests who were later transferred to the Oxnard church; the others say they were molested by priests once connected with the parish.

Although Fessard is mentioned in the suit, none of the plaintiffs allege they were abused by him. He was assigned to Santa Clara from 1977 to 1980.

Together, the six priests mentioned in the suit have at least 55 alleged victims, the suit contends.

"I suppose somebody could say it is coincidental, but the facts really speak for themselves," Boucher said Monday.

J. Michael Hennigan, attorney for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, denied that the Oxnard church was a dumping ground for pedophile priests. Further, most of the allegations made in the lawsuit were about incidents that took place before Cardinal Roger Mahony became archbishop, he said.

"I cannot even begin to speculate how multiple offenders get together in one place," he said, adding that it is "inconceivable" that someone would have knowingly dumped them all at Santa Clara.

"I don't believe in coincidence," Hennigan said. "There is an explanation about how this occurred. I just don't know what it is. But I reject the idea of a dumping ground."

Boucher blamed the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for failing to protect children from the alleged sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of the accused priests.

"Despite knowing the sordid history of each of these priests, the defendant archdiocese placed them into Santa Clara Parish and other parishes knowing they would be revered by the children and families as respected members of the church," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the archdiocese was negligent in its hiring, retention and supervision of the priests and failed to warn parents about the potential dangers the men posed to children.

It also alleges that the archdiocese breached its fiduciary duty to protect children who attended churches and church-owned schools, and alleges that many of the sexual assaults took place on archdiocese property.

Daniel Smith, the lead plaintiff in the case, said he was 9 when he met Roemer at catechism classes at St. Paschal Baylon Church in Thousand Oaks. They bonded over sports.

"He was the lovable Father Pat," Smith recalled. "I trusted him because that's what I was taught."

Roemer began sexually abusing Smith in 1980 on church grounds, according to the lawsuit. The abuse stopped a year later when Roemer was arrested for molesting other boys, Smith said. Two other men, plaintiffs in the same lawsuit, also accused Roemer of sexually abusing them while they were students at St. Paschal.

Smith said he filed the lawsuit to try to get the attention of church leaders.

"I just wanted an acknowledgment that they did something wrong," Smith said. "It's the simplest thing they could do and the last thing they will do."

Roemer, who was convicted of molesting boys in 1981, was a fixture at the Santa Clara Parish while he was attending nearby St. John's Seminary in Camarillo throughout the 1960s, according to the lawsuit.

Another plaintiff, who asked that his name not be published, said he and his brother were molested by Miller while they attended elementary school at Guardian Angel Catholic Church in Pacoima.

He said he came forward after prosecutors were forced to drop their criminal case against Miller when the Supreme Court ruled that a California law extending the statute of limitations in such cases was unconstitutional.

"It left us no choice," he said.

"It's not Miller I am upset with. He is a sick individual," the man said. "I'm upset with the people who are not sick, those who have purposefully lacked recognition, responsibility for what they did."

Miller was transferred to Santa Clara in 1984, after he allegedly molested the brothers at Guardian Angel, where he was pastor.

The lawsuit also alleges that Sutphin molested three boys at St. Rose of Lima in Maywood from 1962 to 1973; two at St. Mary Magdalen in Camarillo from 1972 to 1975; and twin brothers at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard in 1977, while Sutphin was regularly saying Mass at Santa Clara Church.

The suit accuses Guerrini and Hernandez of molesting a girl and a boy, respectively, while they were assigned to Santa Clara Parish in the 1970s.

Ex-Priest Again Is Target in 2 Lawsuits
Michael Harris, the former cleric who headed Mater Dei and Santa Margarita high schools, is accused of sexual abuse

By William Lobdell
LA Times
October 30, 2003,1,2012415.story

Two lawsuits filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange on Wednesday claim that the former principal of Mater Dei High School repeatedly molested two boys around 1980, at times in his office.

The accusers are the latest to lodge sexual abuse allegations against Michael Harris, once a popular priest known as "Father Hollywood" to students. He headed Mater Dei in Santa Ana for nearly a decade starting in 1978 before leaving to be founding principal of Santa Margarita High School in south Orange County.

In 2001, the dioceses of Orange and Los Angeles paid Ryan DiMaria, a former Mater Dei student, $5.2 million to settle a molestation suit against Harris. That case included testimony from four others who said they had been sexually abused by the priest.

Harris, who left the priesthood as part of the settlement, has denied the previous allegations.

Neither he nor diocesan officials could be reached for comment Wednesday on the new claims.

In another development, a molestation victim will ask the Orange County district attorney today to start a criminal investigation into the actions of the Diocese of Orange and its handling of sexual abuse cases.

Joelle Casteix, a 33-year-old resident of Corona del Mar and former member of the diocese's sexual abuse oversight committee, said she will submit 1,000 pages of documents supporting her claim that the diocese protected priests that church officials knew were molesters.

One of the suits filed Wednesday was by a 39-year-old attorney who lives overseas. He alleged that as a high school junior at Mater Dei in 1980, he sought counseling from Harris. According to court documents, the principal molested him on numerous occasions, including in the principal's office and residence.

The Times does not name victims of sexual abuse without their permission.

The other suit was filed by a 40-year-old Nevada man. He alleged that he was molested in 1979 by Harris, whom he had met at his parish, St. Polycarp Church in Stanton.

Both men are represented by John Manly of Costa Mesa. They were able to bring the litigation under a state law effective Jan. 1 that suspends the statute of limitations in many sexual-abuse cases until the end of the year.


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