Ruling lets abuse survivor proceed with suit against California bishops

National Catholic Reporter

April 30, 2019

By Maria Benevento

A Los Angeles, California, superior court has ruled that a survivor of sexual abuse can sue the state’s Catholic bishops and the California Catholic Conference.

In a press conference livestreamed from Burbank, California, April 29, survivor of clergy sexual abuse Tom Emens spoke alongside attorneys with the Jeff Anderson & Associates law firm. The firm, based in Minnesota, has a decadeslong history of suing the Catholic church and other organizations over their handling of sexual abuse cases.

Emens is not seeking financial compensation in the lawsuit he filed Oct. 2, 2018, but rather the release of complete information about offenders in each diocese, as well as information regarding the bishops’ knowledge of sexual abuse and their handling of victims and abusers.

He and his legal team “seek to uncover what was known, when it was known, and how children can be made safer today,” said Mike Reck, one of Emens’ attorneys, during the press conference.

The lawsuit alleges “that there is a nuisance, a dangerous condition existing” in the California dioceses from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Reck said. By uncovering concealed information on sex abuse, they hope “to not only heal the past but to protect the future.”

A native of Anaheim, California, Emens alleges that he was assaulted at age 10 by Msgr. Thomas Joseph Mohan, who died in 2002 and whose name doesn’t appear on a list of over 300 priests accused of abuse in the Los Angeles Archdiocese that Anderson & Associates compiled from public records.

Saying he felt “cautiously optimistic” and considered the court’s ruling a “victory,” Emens stated during the press conference that his goal in bringing the lawsuit was to help other victim-survivors as well as children who could be currently at risk.

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