Church Asks San Diego Judge to Invalidate Abuse Cases
Tidal Wave of Lawsuits Followed 2003 Ruling

NBC San Diego
July 1, 2004

SAN DIEGO -- The Roman Catholic Church is asking a San Diego federal judge to void a 2003 law that makes it legal for victims of sexual abuse to sue, it was reported Thursday.

The law put an end to an earlier statute of limitations in parish sexual abuse cases, opening up a tidal wave of lawsuits in California. The Roman Catholic Church currently faces about 800 alleged sexual abuse cases, said Susan Oliver, a San Diego lawyer representing the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.

The church's request stems from an alleged case of sexual abuse in San Diego. A Colorado man says his parish priest molested him there when the two were vacationing in 1967 and 1968. The priest, James Michael Janssen, is now 83.

A ruling in favor of the diocese could save the church hundreds of millions of dollars that would have been needed to resolve the cases. The diocese says the 2003 statute violates the church's First Amendment rights, including the rights to free exercise of religion and due process.