Suit Levels New Charges against Priest

By Jean Guccione
Times [Los Angeles]
October 16, 2003

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.

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