Bishop Accountability
  Retired Priest Named in Lawsuit

Msgr. Patrick Reilly, pastor emeritus at St. Robert Bellarmine, accused of past sexual misconduct with a minor at church in Covina. Archdiocese finds 'no evidence'

By Tim Willert
The Burbank (CA) Leader
February 7, 2004

Hillside District, CA — A retired Catholic priest with ties to a local church is accused of molesting a boy more than two decades ago at a parish school in the San Gabriel Valley.

Msgr. Patrick Reilly, pastor emeritus at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Burbank, is one of two priests named in a lawsuit claiming sexual misconduct with a minor at Sacred Heart School in Covina.

Reilly has not been accused of any prior misconduct, according to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which has determined that the allegations against Reilly are without merit.

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 31 in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Reilly sexually abused Michael Matthew Gallardo between 1980 and 1984 while Gallardo was a student at Sacred Heart. Reilly was a priest at Sacred Heart Church between 1974 and 1987, when he was transferred to St. Robert Bellarmine.

The lawsuit alleges that Reilly engaged in acts of sexual misconduct with Gallardo — now 31 — that included kissing, hugging, fondling, forced oral copulation and other sexual acts.

"As a direct result of the wrongful conduct alleged herein, [the] plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer great pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress … and loss of enjoyment of life," the lawsuit states.

Katherine K. Freberg, Gallardo's attorney, did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

News of the allegations against Reilly was delivered to parishioners at St. Robert Bellarmine over the weekend by Father Joseph Shea, pastor at Holy Family Parish in Glendale.

Shea, an administrative church leader in the San Fernando Valley, read a statement at the request of Cardinal Roger Mahony during one Mass on Saturday and four on Sunday.

"There was total disbelief on the part of the parishioners," Shea said Friday. "They don't believe the accusations."

Reilly, who recently underwent surgery, could not be reached for comment Friday. But according to the statement read by Shea, when Reilly was first told about the lawsuit, he made it clear that he had never "mistreated any minor and was totally innocent of the charge."

"He is devastated by the charge and is cooperating fully with us," according to the statement.

The Clergy Misconduct Board of the Archdiocese, meanwhile, reviewed the allegation and, according to the statement, concluded there was "no credible evidence of misconduct" on Reilly's part.

The 13-member board includes 11 who do not work for the church, two who are parents of boys abused by a priest and one who is a survivor of sexual abuse.

"They receive all the information, they make the determination of credibility and then make a recommendation directly to Cardinal [Roger] Mahony on an action to take," said Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

As a result of the board's findings, Reilly "remains in good standing, and after his recovery from surgery will return to the parish and continue to serve you in his retirement," according to the statement.

Reilly was ordained in 1958. He served as pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine from June 1986 until June 2002 and retired in July of that year.

Other than celebrating an occasional Mass, Reilly has no other duties, said Tamberg, who could not say whether Reilly lives in the parish residence.

Calls to St. Robert Bellarmine seeking comment were referred to Tamberg, who said an estimated 3,000 families belong to the parish at 133 N. 5th St.

In accordance with policy, the archdiocese notified law enforcement of the allegations contained in the lawsuit.

The other priest accused of misconduct by Gallardo — Harold DeJonghe — died in October 1998, according to the lawsuit. He allegedly molested Gallardo from 1980 until 1982.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Sacred Heart also are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages.

The lawsuit, Tamberg said, is one of dozens filed between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2003, alleging sexual abuse of minors on the part of priests, brothers, nuns and laypersons working for the Catholic Church.

If it is determined that any priest engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor, he will be removed from the ministry, a pledge that has been implemented by the archdiocese.

"The fact that a lawsuit has been filed, however, does not mean that Monsignor Reilly has acted in an abusive fashion," according to the statement.


Original material copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.