Diocese Facing 3 New Lawsuits
Accusations of Sexual Abuse Made
By Scott Smith
The Record [Stockton CA]
January 13, 2007
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockton has drawn three new lawsuits accusing a deceased priest and an already convicted child molester deported to Ireland of sexually abusing former students at a Lodi parochial school.
The civil lawsuits, filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court, come five years after charges of sexual abuse by clergy surged across the country. An attorney and a victims' advocate said the suits show that clergy abuse continues to resonate today.
One suit alleges the Stockton Diocese failed to prevent the Rev. Murty Fahy from molesting a girl for three years beginning in the second grade at St. Ann's Elementary School in Lodi. Fahy died five years ago.
Two other suits claim defrocked priest Oliver O'Grady abused a boy and a girl who were students at the Lodi school, which is operated by the Diocese of Stockton.
All three plaintiffs, each identified in court papers as a "Doe" to protect their identities and prevent them from embarrassment, are now adults, and each seeks undisclosed amounts of money in the suits filed separately last month.
John Manly, a Newport Beach attorney who has won million-dollar settlements in clergy abuse cases since 1997 and represents the three plaintiffs, said the public's shock has waned since media reports in 2002 first detailed a systemic problem in the church.
Still, the church has failed to change its policy requiring priests' celibacy, Manly said.
"This is not going away," said Manly of the policy he blamed for creating sexual predators. "That's a screwed-up view of the world."
Sister Terry Davis, a spokeswoman for the Stockton Diocese, would not talk specifically about allegations because of the pending lawsuits.
"We've learned about these lawsuits," she said. "I think it's important for people to know the diocese is in the process of conducting its own investigation into the allegations."
The recently filed court papers detail allegations of abuse over periods of years. The physical and mental abuse has left deep scars that prevent victims from maintaining adult relationships, among other emotional problems, court papers read.
In one suit, a 21-year-old woman accused Fahy, who remained a priest until 2002, of molesting her inside the church's confessional and other locations at the school. The woman said she was abused from the ages of 5 to 11, the suit said.
A 42-year-old man who filed one of the lawsuits involving O'Grady said in court papers that for years he had repressed dark memories of the abuse suffered from the ages of 8 to 11.
Mental images came back to life in June 2005, when O'Grady sent a letter to him and other victims seeking a face-to-face meeting where he could apologize, the suit said.
The man now is having "confusion with his sexual orientation, including nightmares of being with men and having major problems with intimacy," the suit said, adding that emotional problems have kept him from stable employment.
A 32-year-old woman who recently filed the third lawsuit named O'Grady.
Before these most recent lawsuits, O'Grady garnered attention as a convicted child molester, even becoming the subject of the award winning documentary film "Deliver Us from Evil." Convicted in 1993 of molesting two boys, he spent seven years in Ione's Mule Creek State Prison.
He was deported to his native Ireland in 2000 and made the news again in October with reports that he disappeared, possibly moving to Canada. A shopkeeper in Dublin, Ireland, recently reported chasing away O'Grady, who was trying to buy construction paper.
Manly said he believes O'Grady will remain a threat to any community in which he lives until he either dies or is again locked up. More children could fall victim to the former priest, Manly said.
"O'Grady is like a shark eating fish," Manly said. "He continues to consume children."
These lawsuits are three of some 2,000 cases pending against clergy in the United States, said David Clohessy, executive director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Most of the lawsuits are in California courts, he said.
Isolated cases of priest abuse have dated back several years, but Clohessy said national attention to it peaked five years ago this month, when media reports started to identify it as a systemic problem among Catholic clergy.
Clohessy said the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests today hears from people almost on a daily basis reporting for the first time that they were abused. More of them are in their late teens and 20s, he said.
"There always have been and always will be molesters in the ministry," he said. "I try not to be so pessimistic."
Contact reporter Scott Smith at (209) 546-8296 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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