Priest to Return from Canada after Breakdown
Msgr. John Urell Is No Longer Undergoing Treatment at a Canadian Psychiatric Facility, the Diocese Says

By Rachanee Srisavasdi
Orange County Register
March 4, 2008

An Orange County priest whose testimony in a sex-abuse lawsuit led to an attempt to hold Bishop Tod Brown in contempt has been discharged from a Canadian psychiatric facility, the diocese said this week.

Msgr. John Urell is expected to return as pastor of St. Norbert Church in Orange sometime after Easter, according to an announcement by the Diocese of Orange.

Urell, who used to investigate clergy and other sex-abuse claims against the Diocese of Orange, was sent to Southdown Institute in Canada after breaking down during the middle of a July deposition in a Mater Dei sex abuse lawsuit. He was sent to the hospital for "acute anxiety," his lawyers then said.

Lawyers representing the plaintiff Christina Ruiz attempted to hold Brown in contempt for sending Urell to the facility, arguing that Urell needed to finish pretrial testimony. The motion, though, was dropped when Ruiz and two other women settled their sex-abuse lawsuits against the Diocese for $6.685 million in October.

Some of those who know Urell such as John Hanna, a civil lawyer who is the former county Democratic chair, and political blogger Matt Cunningham, who attends St. Norbert's Catholic Church formed a group to support the priest after his departure, alleging his reputation has been maligned in the media.

A group that supports Catholic sex-abuse victims called on Urell Tuesday to finish answering questions about such allegations in the Diocese of Orange.

"When his health permits it, as a matter of justice, courtesy and compassion, we would hope that Urell would voluntarily agree to resume answering ... questions," said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in a prepared statement.

Contact the writer: (714) 834-3773 or


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.