Santa Rosa diocese pays $3.5 million to settle final molestation case
By Jeremy Hay
Insurance News Net
July 16, 2014
July 16--The Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa has paid $3.5 million to a victim of a Lakeport priest accused of sexual molestation, resolving the last known sex case against the diocese.
Bishop Robert F. Vasa, who has led the diocese since 2011, issued a statement Tuesday evening expressing "great sadness" for the young man molested by the late Father Ted Oswald, who died in 2010, and for all victims of sexual abuse at the hands of church officials.
"I humbly apologize to this young person on behalf of the Church that failed to protect them. I also take this occasion to apologize to all victims for the harm done to them. This perversity, though prevalent in all parts of society, was allowed to persist in the Church for too long," Vasa said in a statement.
The diocese did not disclose financial terms. Skye Daley, an attorney for the victim, said the settlement was valued at $3.5 million. The money will be paid primarily from insurance reserves, according to the diocese. The settlement will not impact existing ministries and none of the funds will come from the diocese's Capital Campaign or Annual Ministries Appeal.
In 2009, the Santa Rosa diocese paid $1.3 million to settle a lawsuit alleging Oswald had molested two boys between 1988 and 1995. The suit was filed in early 2008 but was not made public until several months later, when Oswald was removed from his position as a priest at St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Lakeport.
Oswald died in 2010 at the age of 65.
The settlement resolves a second lawsuit filed in 2013 alleging the diocese and St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Lake County failed to protect a boy, then 16, from a known sexual predator.
The lawsuit alleged Oswald began molesting the plaintiff in 2007 after "grooming" the child through flattery and ingratiating himself to the child's parents. The first sexual incident occurred after he hired the boy to wash his motor home, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged the priest plied the boy with alcohol and groped him, both over and under his clothing. The alleged incidents occurred both at Oswald's home and the church office, according to the lawsuit. The youth was an altar boy and a student at the parish school. He also participated in a youth group led by Oswald, according to the lawsuit.
Vasa said the diocese has policies and procedures in place to deal with reports of sexual abuse.
"Sadly, evil will still occur, but it will not ever be tolerated," he said.