Suit Targets Inland Priest
Church: Two Men Accuse Monsignor Peter Luque of Molesting Them More Than 40 Years Ago
By Michael Fisher
Press Enterprise [Riverside CA]
December 13, 2003
Two men who accused a prominent Inland priest of molesting them more than 40 years ago sued the Diocese of San Bernardino on Friday as part of a wave of new lawsuits naming onetime clerics from San Bernardino and San Diego counties.
In their joint lawsuit, one of the men accuses Monsignor Peter Luque of molesting him at a San Bernardino Catholic church and other unspecified locations from 1963 to 1965, according to documents filed in San Diego County Superior Court. The other man accuses Luque of sexually abusing him in 1967 at a Colton church and elsewhere, the lawsuit states.
Luque, a Colton native who spent more than four decades ministering to Catholics in Colton, San Bernardino and Corona, could not be located for comment Friday. He resigned last year from St. Edward Catholic Church in Corona after abuse accusations surfaced against him, and he remains on administrative leave, diocesan officials said. Luque's accusers are the same two men whose allegations led San Bernardino prosecutors to file molestation charges earlier this year against the 69-year-old priest. Prosecutors were forced to dismiss those charges after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that portions of a 1994 law used to charge decades-old cases of child molestation were unconstitutional.
Anthony DeMarco, attorney for the two men who are now in their 50s, said the case was one of four he filed Friday in San Diego involving onetime Inland priests.
Two of those lawsuits involve accusations of molestation dating back 40 years against the Rev. Franz Robier, a deceased priest who spent nearly three decades working in the region, DeMarco said. The fourth case involves similarly dated accusations against Edward Rodrigue, a former priest now serving a 10-year prison sentence for molesting a developmentally disabled Highland boy in the 1990s.
The Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the million-member San Bernardino diocese, said he could not comment Friday because he had not seen the lawsuits.
He noted that all the accusations involve alleged incidents that occurred well before the Diocese of San Bernardino was created in November 1978 to oversee parishes in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Before 1978, the Diocese of San Diego managed Inland parishes.
The lawsuit against Luque also targets the San Diego Diocese, where officials could not be reached for comment Friday evening.
Rodrigo Valdivia, chancellor of the San Diego Diocese, has said his diocese will pay legal fees incurred by the San Bernardino Diocese in lawsuits alleging clergy misconduct before 1978.
The names of some of the accusers are listed in the court documents but are being withheld by The Press-Enterprise, which does not routinely identify people who may have been sexual assault victims.
Attorneys and church officials said the latest wave of lawsuits may be the start of an expected flood of filings as attorneys try to beat a Dec. 31 deadline in a state law that temporarily suspended the statute of limitations to allow molestation victims to sue their abusers' employers.
Lincoln said diocesan leaders have already been contacted by several attorneys who stated they intended to file additional lawsuits before the deadline. "We are going to wait and see what happens by Dec 31," he said.
Jeffrey Anderson, an attorney representing dozens of clergy-sexual abuse victims across the country, said lawyers are rushing to meet the deadline.
"This window is closing," said Anderson, who is also working on the cases filed Friday. "If survivors are going to hold their perpetrators and those that protected them accountable, and protect others by exposing them, now is the time."
In April 2002, San Bernardino prosecutors charged Luque with molesting the two men who sued on Friday. The priest was charged with committing a lewd act on a 13-year-old boy in 1963 in San Bernardino, and with one count of oral copulation with the same boy when the youth was 16.
Luque was charged with five counts each of oral copulation and sodomy involving a 14-year-old Colton boy starting in 1967, prosecutors said at the time.
Luque, whose family's name graces a library and a community center in Colton, pleaded not guilty to the charges, which were later dismissed after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the California law that allowed authorities to prosecute decades-old sex crimes.
In the lawsuit filed Friday, the two men accuse church leaders of negligence, claiming they knew Luque abused children but they took no steps to protect them.
Steve Harmon, Luque's criminal defense attorney, declined comment Friday, saying he no longer represents the priest and does not handle civil litigation.
In another lawsuit filed by DeMarco Friday, a man claims he was molested by former Inland priest Edward Rodrigue in 1969 and 1970 in Calexico in Imperial County.
The lawsuit, which does not name the San Bernardino Diocese, is the fourth to be filed since June against Rodrigue and the San Diego Diocese.
Three of those other cases target the San Bernardino Diocese, including a lawsuit filed by two brothers who claim Rodrigue molested them as former altar boys in 1977 and 1978 at St.
George Catholic Church and St. George School in Ontario.
Rodrigue, 66, is in a Northern California prison. Before being sentenced, Rodrigue admitted to molesting four or five boys a year during his 22 years as a priest in the two dioceses. He was removed from the priesthood in 1992.
The other two lawsuits filed Friday involved the Rev. Franz Robier, who worked for 30 years in San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties before retiring in 1983. He died 11 years later.
In those cases, Robier is accused of molesting two girls at a San Diego church between 1956 and 1958. On Thursday, DeMarco's firm filed a lawsuit against the San Diego Diocese on behalf of two other women who also say Robier molested them in the late 1950s in San Diego.
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