Inland Diocese Faces New Molestation Suit : Court: Brothers Say They, Too, Were Victims of an Ex-Ontario Priest Serving Time for Abusing Children.

By Michael Fisher
Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
September 25, 2003

Two brothers sued the Diocese of San Bernardino on Wednesday, alleging that they were molested as altar boys 25 years ago by a former Catholic priest who was later convicted of abusing other children.

The brothers, now adults, accuse Edward Anthony Rodrigue of fondling them in 1977 and 1978 at St. George Catholic Church and St. George School in Ontario.

One brother was 10 years old at the time. The other, who was molested multiple times, was 9, his attorney, Timothy Hale, said by telephone.

The lawsuit is the third to be filed since June involving Rodrigue, the San Bernardino Diocese and the Diocese of San Diego, which managed the Inland parishes before November 1978. In those lawsuits, five men have accusing Rodrigue of molesting them.

The Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the San Bernardino Diocese, declined to comment Wednesday, saying diocese officials had not seen the lawsuit.

Rodrigo Valdivia, chancellor of the San Diego Diocese, could not be reached for comment.

Rodrigue, 66, is in a Northern California prison and could not be reached for comment. He was sentenced to 10 years behind bars in 1998 after he pleaded no contest to molesting a developmentally disabled 11-year-old Highland boy.

A probation report in that case said Rodrigue admitted to molesting four or five boys a year during his 22 years as a priest in the two dioceses.

Rodrigue, removed from the priesthood in 1992, had previously pleaded no contest in 1979 to charges of molesting a different Ontario boy. He was put on probation in that case.

In the new lawsuit, the brothers accuse the two dioceses of negligence, saying Rodrigue's supervisors and diocesan leaders knew of past accusations of molestation against the priest but still permitted him to work with children.

"They allowed him unfettered contact with children," Hale said. "It's hard to fathom why they would do that knowing what they knew about his history."

According to the lawsuit, Rodrigue was working in parishes in Heber, El Centro and Calexico in 1975-76 when he was accused of sexually assaulting altar boys.

He was sent to a Massachusetts treatment center for priests, where he spent four months in 1976. He was assigned to the Ontario school in mid-1977, the lawsuit states.

While there, Rodrigue oversaw altar boy practice. The lawsuit alleges that priests and school workers knew that Rodrigue was taking to children to his rectory room, but they did nothing to stop him.

Hale said his clients were molested in Rodrigue's room at the rectory and in the church.

The brothers no longer live in Southern California. Their names are being withheld by The Press-Enterprise, which does not routinely identify people who may have been the victims of sexual assault.


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