Church Delay
Why did the SR diocese wait to report possible abuse?

Press Democrat
June 23, 2006

Given the sordid history of sexual abuse by priests in the Santa Rosa Diocese, it's difficult to understand why church officials didn't immediately report the latest incident to authorities.

According to reports, the Rev. Xavier Ochoa admitted to "an instance of abuse" on April 27 and was suspended by Bishop Daniel Walsh on April 28. Three days later, on a Sunday, the diocese attorney faxed a letter to the county reporting the possible abuse.

By May 3, when detectives began their investigation, Ochoa was in San Diego, according to a phone call he made to another priest. A day later, Ochoa was believed to be in Mexico.

State law, and the standards posted on the diocese Web site, require that suspected cases of abuse must be reported "as soon as practicably possible by telephone." A rapid response helps protect other children - and ensures that the accused won't have an opportunity to flee.

For some parishioners and members of the public, the fact that the diocese reported the alleged abuse will be seen as an improvement over past practices. For others, the delay will raise questions as to the diocese's level of commitment to its anti-abuse policies.

It is to this second group - and to the children Ochoa allegedly abused - that the diocese owes an explanation of its tardy response.


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