3 Priests Sued -- Molestation of Boys Alleged
9 Men Say They Were Abused and That Church Covered
By Don Lattin
San Francisco Chronicle
May 24, 1994
[Note: A survivor's name has been redacted from this article.]
Nine Northern California men alleged in a lawsuit yesterday that they were sexually molested when they were boys by three Roman Catholic priests and that church leaders in San Francisco and Santa Rosa tried to cover up for the clerics.
The personal injury lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, names Monsignor Patrick J. O'Shea of San Francisco, the Rev. Gary Timmons of the Diocese of Santa Rosa and the Rev. Austin Patrick Keegan, a priest who served in San Francisco and Santa Rosa.
It also alleges that Archbishop John Quinn, Santa Rosa Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann and former Santa Rosa Bishop Mark Hurley failed to take the necessary action to stop the priests from abusing other boys.
The nine plaintiffs -- who say the molestations took place at church camps, in diocesan vehicles and at parish rectories between the late 1960s and early 1980s -- seek unspecified monetary damages for their "severe humiliation, mental anguish and emotional and physical distress."
Plaintiff James Johnson, 29, of Santa Rosa said at a press conference yesterday that he joined the suit "to change the way the church deals with pedophile priests."
"Right now, the church is not taking responsibility for pedophile priests," said Johnson, who alleges that Timmons fondled him 16 years ago at Camp St. Michael, a Mendocino County church camp.
Johnson, then 13, said Timmons gave him a back rub at the camp that ended with the priest "fondling my private parts."
"I did a lot of drinking and used drugs to try to suppress it," said Johnson, who is now married, has two children and works as a cable TV technician. "I felt a lot of shame, sexually."
NOT REPRESSED MEMORIES
None of the nine plaintiffs claim that they repressed the memories of their molestations, only to suddenly remember them years later in therapy.
But they are seeking damages under a 1991 statute that allows adults to file civil suits three years after they first realize the psychological damage caused by childhood sexual abuse.
Seven of the nine plaintiffs said they were abused by Timmons, one by Keegan and one by O'Shea.
William Cubero, 33, of Pittsburg alleges that O'Shea fondled him in 1969 on a camping trip at Lake Berryessa.
O'Shea, a prominent San Francisco priest who once headed the Catholic Church's outreach to the gay and lesbian community, has been on administrative leave since March while law enforcement officials investigate previous allegations of child sex abuse.
POLICE PROBE COMPLETED
Police have concluded their investigation. Bob Pedesta, the chief assistant to the San Francisco district attorney, said his office is still studying whether it can criminally charge O'Shea under a new law that provides some exemptions to the six-year statute of limitations on abuse cases.
O'Shea's attorney, James Collins, said yesterday that the civil suit has no merit.
"I don't know what happened 25 years ago, but Monsignor O'Shea has served as a dedicated priest for over 40 years and has helped thousands and thousands of people," said Collins. "As we have learned from other cases, memories of things that happened 25 years ago are suspect."
Archbishop Quinn has denied that he had any information that O'Shea, the pastor of St. Cecelia's Catholic Church in the Parkside district, had a possible pedophilia problem until police approached the archdiocese in March.
ATTORNEY DISPUTES ARCHBISHOP
San Francisco attorney Maya Ramsey, one of three lawyers who filed yesterday's suit, said that is not true.
"We have information that Quinn knew about this and kept it under wraps," said Ramsey, who declined to provide any more details about that claim.
Ramsey said they have statements from at least one Santa Rosa priest who says he tried to warn Bishop Hurley, the former auxiliary bishop of San Francisco and former bishop of Santa Rosa, about Timmons and Keegan.
Hurley, now retired and living in San Francisco, could not be reached for comment yesterday, but, in an interview with The Chronicle last month, he denied that he knew about Timmons and Keegan.
Repeated attempts to reach Timmons and Ziemann, his current bishop, were unsuccessful.
"Father Timmons is undergoing treatment," said Richard Naumann, communications director for the Diocese of Santa Rosa.
Keegan's whereabouts are unknown. Bill Mitchell, spokesman for the San Francisco Archdiocese, said Keegan served at several parishes in the San Francisco Archdiocese in the 1960s and 1970s and transferred to the Diocese of Santa Rosa in 1975.
Mitchell said Keegan is now an "inactive priest" with the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
"To the best of our knowledge," Mitchell said, "he is in Mexico."
The lawsuit alleges that Keegan molested [Redacted], now 27 and living in Cotati, on numerous occasions between 1979 and 1981.
The lawsuit says Keegan molested [Redacted] in a diocesan car outside St. Eugene's School, and in the parish rectory. It states that the sexual abuse included "forcibly throwing him to the ground and removing his clothes, fondling and masturbation."
ALLEGATIONS AGAINST TIMMONS
All of the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege abuse against Timmons, who most recently served as pastor of St. Bernard's Church in Eureka. Timmons is the former youth ministries director of the Santa Rosa Diocese and founded St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Rohnert Park in 1981 and Camp St. Michael near Leggett, where many of the alleged molestations occurred.
The plaintiffs accusing him of molestation also include Stephen Gallager, 30, of Santa Rosa; Douglas Sauvageau, 38, of Sacramento; Jon Laforge, 32, of Fresno; Donald Hoard, 31, of Petaluma; Barry Inman, 30, of Ukiah; and James Waters, 28, of McKinleyville.
The lawsuit also alleges that a church camp director with the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Robert Bailey, failed to report Timmons to authorities.