Suit Claims Child Abuse by Fresno Priest in 1960s

By Jim Guy
Fresno Bee
August 12, 2011

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno is named in a lawsuit filed by a man who alleges he was abused by a priest who once served as chaplain at San Joaquin Memorial High School in the 1960s.

The suit was filed Tuesday in San Francisco and announced by the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. It alleges that the Rev. Don Flickinger, whose career started in 1964 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Fresno, engaged in "sexually motivated misconduct that was recognized by numerous boys at [Memorial] as inappropriate," and that school and church officials did not act to stop him.

That constituted "negligence and or deception and concealment" that led to the sexual assault of Matthew Frazer in San Jose in 2001, the suit alleges.

From Fresno, Flickinger went on to serve at St. Frances Cabrini Church in San Jose, where the suit says the abuse of Frazer occurred. According to SNAP's news release, Frazer, now 23, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor child pornography charges in 2009. His attorney, Tim Hale of Santa Barbara, said Frazer downloaded child pornography from the Internet shortly after the abuse occurred and that this behavior was a "direct result of psychological abuse."

The Diocese of Fresno did not respond to specific allegations of the suit. Instead, it issued a news release stating procedures that are undertaken when such charges are made. They include reporting allegations to police regardless of the amount of time that has passed since the alleged misconduct; putting the accused clergyman on administrative leave; and conducting an internal investigation. The diocese said Flickinger is in retirement and living in the diocese.

Conduct at Memorial described in the suit includes inappropriately touching boys, removing boys from classes so Flickinger could ask them sexual questions and grabbing boys with enough force to cause pain. None of the witnesses who attended Memorial are identified by name in the lawsuit and at least one, "Witness No. 10," from the class of 1969, defended the priest, saying Flickinger was simply reaching out for companionship.

The suit alleges inappropriate conduct occurred at Memorial and at a summer camp at Bass Lake. "Witness No. 1," a member of Memorial's class of 1968, said he was a student who was taken out of class and asked sexual questions. The suit alleges Flickinger dug "his fingers into the boy's upper thigh with such pressure Witness No. 1 had to flex his quadriceps to prevent Flickinger from digging any deeper."

The suit states the Fresno Diocese and all other defendants created a public nuisance by placing Frazer in the custody and control of Flickinger.


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