5 Women Sue Diocese, Say Priest, Now Dead, Molested Them in '50s

By Greg Moran
San Diego Union-Tribune
November 8, 2003

A lawsuit filed on behalf of five women against the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego alleges a now deceased priest molested them nearly 50 years ago, and that church officials covered it up.

The suit filed yesterday alleges the priest, the Rev. Franz Robier, sexually abused the women between 1955 and 1957 at the Church of the Holy Spirit in San Diego.

Robier died in 1994. Andrea Leavitt, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said a total of 14 people have filed or will file suits against the diocese alleging they were abused by Robier.

Filing of the latest suit comes two days after three other suits alleging abuse by Monsignor William Kraft, now deceased, were filed in San Diego.

Two of the suits allege molestation by Kraft at St. Therese of the Child Church in Allied Gardens between 1955 and 1963, when the claimants were teenagers. The claimant in the third suit alleges Kraft molested him between 1970 and 1973 or 1974, when he was between the ages of 6 and 9.

The suit filed by the five women claims they were sexually abused during the time when Robier was the assistant pastor at Church of the Holy Spirit in San Diego. At the time all were members of the church choir, which Robier was in charge of, according to the suit.

The victims were between the ages of 8 and 11 when the alleged incidents occurred. Outside of court, Leavitt said that one of the plaintiffs complained to a priest, but that instead of reporting Robier to police or taking other steps, the diocese sent him to a retreat in New Mexico.

A short time later he retired to the diocese and was stationed at a church in San Bernardino County. At the time, San Bernardino was part of the San Diego diocese. Earlier this year a lawsuit was filed in San Bernardino County by a 47-year-old woman who says Robier molested her in 1959 and 1960 -- after he had been removed from the San Diego area.

Leavitt contended that the movements of Robier and other evidence "strongly suggest this diocese engaged in a cover-up" regarding Robier.

Rodrigo Valdivia, a spokesman for the diocese, said church officials had not seen the lawsuit yet. He said the diocese will investigate the claims.

"We don't have any information that these things were covered up," Valdivia said. "We don't know exactly how some things were handled at certain times, but we will investigate."

He acknowledged such an inquiry may be difficult because of the passage of time. "Any claims that are this old present problems for everyone involved, to try to determine how factual they are," he said.


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