2000 Plea by Priest Was Sexually Related Ex-Regis Cleric Sent Morrison Girl Lewd Photo

By Virginia Culver
Denver Post
May 21, 2002

With the Catholic Church's clergy sex scandal continuing to rumble across the country, renewed attention is being focused on the case of a former Denver Jesuit priest who sent a lewd picture to a 14-year-old Morrison girl.

'There's no way to excuse something like this, and I feel bad for the family,' the Rev. Phil Steele, with the regional Jesuit office in St. Louis, said Monday.

The case of Patrick O'Liddy was highlighted Monday night on KCNC-News4. O'Liddy, 45, had been chatting on the Internet with the girl before sending her a picture of his genitals, officials said.

'He sent me a first picture from his waist down, and it was a pornographic picture,' the girl told News4. 'I showed my mom, and I quit talking to him after that.' The girl's mother, Katie Warner, contacted the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, which in turn contacted the District Attorney's Office.

'You think of a priest as someone you can trust, but nowadays, you can't trust anyone,' Warner said on the newscast.

Mike and Cassandra Harris, a husband and wife Internet sleuthing team with the District Attorney's Office, went to the girl's home. And using the girl's Internet sign-on, Mike Harris e-mailed O'Liddy and asked to meet with him.

When O'Liddy appeared at the designated place, he met police officers, not the young girl, and was arrested, according to district attorney spokeswoman Pam Russell.

He pleaded guilty to felony attempted sexual assault on a minor.

In August 2000, O'Liddy was sentenced to 10 years' probation and 200 hours of community service, which must be completed by the end of 2004.

Efforts to reach the girl were unsuccessful, and O'Liddy didn't return phone calls. The girl and her family have since moved out of state.

The Catholic Church sex scandal is scheduled to take center stage next month when the nation's Catholic bishops meet in Dallas on June 13-15 to set policy about priests accused of molesting children. A meeting of the 14 U.S. cardinals with Pope John Paul II earlier this month didn't result in specific policy decisions in how bishops should react to allegations against priests.

After the court sentence, O'Liddy resigned from the Jesuit order of priests.

At the time of his offense, O'Liddy was on leave from the Jesuits. Before taking the leave, he had worked as an assistant in campus ministry and adult education at Regis University in northwest Denver, which is owned and operated by the Jesuits.

Paul Brocker, a vice president at Regis, said Monday that O'Liddy's 'record at Regis was quite good. Nothing ever surfaced about him.' Steele - who is assistant to the head of the Missouri province of the order, which includes Colorado, Missouri and Kansas - said O'Liddy had no other offenses.

He said O'Liddy joined the Jesuit order in 1977 and was ordained in 1990. A graduate of the University of Texas, O'Liddy never served a parish but had taught at St. Louis University High School in St. Louis, Mo., from 1983 to 1987.

He said the Jesuit order never had any contact with the family of the Morrison girl because the case never went to court.


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