Santa Rosa Diocese Sued over Alleged Abuse
By Ellen Huet
San Francisco Chronicle
August 21, 2013
A Lake County family is suing a Roman Catholic parish and the Diocese of Santa Rosa, claiming they knew a priest had a history of sexual abuse and didn't protect an altar boy from being molested.
The suit, filed Tuesday in Sonoma County Superior Court, claims that the late Rev. Ted Oswald of St. Mary Immaculate in Lakeport had already been accused several times of abusing young parishioners, but was still promoted to pastor and allowed unsupervised access to young boys at and outside the church.
The suit claims that unfettered access allowed Oswald to abuse an altar boy, now 16 years old, whose mother is also a plaintiff in the suit.
Oswald targeted the boy when he was about 10 years old, said the plaintiffs' lawyer, Skye Daley. The priest invited the boy to wash his recreational vehicle at his house, which is where the alleged abuse began, Daley said.
Oswald was named in 2008 in another molestation case, which the diocese settled for $1.3 million in 2009. He was placed on leave after the settlement and died in 2010 at age 65.
In the decade before the first lawsuit against Oswald, the Santa Rosa Diocese paid nearly $20 million to settle sex-abuse claims.
"Father Ted is kind of the tip of the iceberg," Daley said. "The Diocese of Santa Rosa has a shockingly long history of employing priests who have sexually abused children."
The latest suit asks for unspecified damages. Dan Galvin, the attorney for the diocese, declined to comment because church officials had not yet been served with the suit.
The Santa Rosa Diocese includes a Catholic population of 150,000 and encompasses more than 11,700 square miles in the counties of Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt and Del Norte.