Second Woman Accuses Orange County Priest

By Chelsea J. Carter
Associated Press
April 11, 2002

A second molestation accusation has been levied at a Roman Catholic priest who last week denied allegations of sexual misconduct.

Orange County church officials confirmed Wednesday they received a telephone call from a woman accusing Msgr. Lawrence J. Baird of misconduct but would not comment on the allegation or identify the victim.

"I can't give you any details because the caller has asked not to talk about it," said Maria Schinderle, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Orange.

Baird will remain on the job during the investigation, said Bishop Tod D. Brown, who heads the Diocese of Orange.

The allegation was made by a woman who came forward after hearing Lori Haigh settled a $1.2 million lawsuit against the Diocese of Orange and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles over allegations the Rev. John Lenihan molested her, got her pregnant and then paid for an abortion.

At a news conference announcing the settlement, Haigh accused Baird of making sexual advances when she went to him to report that Lenihan had molested her.

Baird, who is also a diocese spokesman, denied the allegation and threatened to sue Haigh, 37, if she did not retract her statement. Haigh responded by challenging Baird to take a lie detector test.

The news comes shortly after reports surfaced that Lenihan has disappeared from a treatment center in Canada without telling diocese officials, who were paying for his stay there.

"He left the treatment program before treatment was completed. We don't know where he's living. We can contact him through his attorney," Schinderle said.

Lenihan resigned in September from St. Edward Church in Dana Point after admitting sexual relationships over the years with several women and teen-age girls.

Church officials paid to send him to a mental health facility for clergy in Ontario, Canada, to work on issues stemming from past sexual misconduct. But representatives for the Southdown Institute said Lenihan left earlier this year.


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