Former Antioch Altar Boy Sues Oakland Diocese over Sex Abuse

Contra Costa Times
March 6, 2003

A lawsuit has been filed in Alameda County Superior Court accusing a former Antioch priest of child sexual abuse in the 1980s and the Oakland Diocese of negligence and a cover-up.

The suit, filed on behalf of Robert Thatcher, 32, a former Antioch resident and altar boy, seeks unspecified damages from the diocese, an unnamed Antioch church, an unnamed bishop and an unnamed priest. The Oakland Diocese includes Contra Costa County churches.

The suit alleges Thatcher was molested from 1980 to 1981. Thatcher served as an altar boy while attending Holy Rosary Church and St. Ignatius Church from 1977 to 1983. The suit says Thatcher suffered physical and emotional damage as a result of the abuse.

Former Antioch priest Robert Ponciroli, 66, was arrested Feb. 27 at his retirement home in Florida on charges he molested altar boys in the Oakland Diocese in the 1970s and 1980s. Ponciroli was St. Ignatius' first pastor, from 1979 to 1983.

Thatcher, who lives in Arizona, on Sunday attended Mass at St. Ignatius Church, where he was joined by other survivors of sexual abuse. He said then that "taking Ponciroli off the street was the first priority."

The diocese did not conduct its own investigation of Ponciroli. He was stripped of his duties in 1995 and underwent therapy.


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