Diocese Sued over Therapy Payments
Attorney Asserts Church Stopped Aid
By Greg Moran email@example.com
Union-Tribune [San Diego]
June 11, 2004
An attorney who represents dozens of clients who allege that they were victims of sexual abuse filed a new suit yesterday, claiming that the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego is reneging on a promise to provide therapy.
The lawsuit filed by Del Mar lawyer Irwin Zalkin seeks class-action status for at least 150 plaintiffs who have sued the San Diego diocese, alleging they were sexually abused years ago.
Those suits continue to proceed through a secret, court-ordered mediation before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. More than 700 lawsuits against the dioceses of San Diego, San Bernardino, Orange, and Riverside and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have been coordinated in front of a single judge.
The suit filed yesterday was brought on behalf of an individual plaintiff, identified as "Jane Roe 12." Plaintiffs in these suits can remain anonymous under state law.
The suit centers on numerous official statements, many by San Diego's Bishop Robert Brom, about the sexual abuse scandal, encouraging victims to come forward and report abuse and offering psychological counseling for them.
The "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2002 calls on dioceses to provide counseling and other social services to people alleging abuse.
The suit quotes Brom saying in February that the diocese continued to offer "pastoral resolution" to alleged victims "without regard to the status of pending litigation."
Zalkin said his client told church officials she had been molested, and started counseling paid for by the diocese. Then she sued the diocese.
After the suit was filed last year, Zalkin said, she was informed that the church would no longer pay for her counseling. The suit quotes part of a letter from a lawyer for the diocese explaining that a request to pay for therapy for someone in "active litigation against the Diocese" will be denied.
The suit alleges breach of contract, false promises and other actions. Zalkin said he wants the diocese to pay for the therapy.
"Let's get these people these services back," he said. "Let's adhere to the promises that have been made."
Chancellor Rodrigo Valdivia said the San Diego diocese offers counseling to alleged victims as long as it is not requested through an attorney.
"If there are no lawyers involved, we offer them counseling as a pastoral outreach," he said. "When a victim approaches us directly, we offer them pastoral outreach. We do not offer them any outreach through lawyers."
Because the diocese will still consider providing services, albeit conditioned on the fact no attorney is involved, it is working within the scope of the charter, he said.
Greg Moran: (619) 542-4586; firstname.lastname@example.org
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