First clergy abuse suits under new California law announced

Angelus News

Dec. 29, 2019

A national attorney for victims of clergy sexual abuse has announced plans to file twelve clergy sexual abuse lawsuits in nine California dioceses under California’s new Child Victims Act, which extends the state’s statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse survivors, set to take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The announcement from Jeff Anderson & Associates included plans for the law firm to file lawsuits in the Archdioceses of Los Angeles and San Francisco and the Dioceses of Fresno, Monterey, Orange, San Bernardino, Oakland, San Jose, and Santa Rosa.

The firm announced the first lawsuits on December 27 in Los Angeles against the Friars Minor Capuchin religious order, St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles over alleged abuse by a wrestling coach, Fr. Christopher Kearney O.F.M. Cap..

In the suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, an unnamed male alleges that Fr. Kearney touched him inappropriately during wrestling matches at St. Francis High School.

Two other lawsuits were announced the same day against Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana and the Diocese of Orange over alleged abuse by former principal Msgr. Michael Harris and Bernie Balsis, a former guidance counselor at the school. The suits were filed on behalf of former students of both high schools alleging abuse decades ago.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said it had not been served with the lawsuit. The statement confirmed that although Fr. Kearney was not a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 15 years ago the Archdiocese had included him on a list of publicly accused priests, following a history of similar accusations against the priest.

“Fr. Kearney is a priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, an independent religious order that runs St. Francis High School,” the Archdiocese said. “Fr. Kearney was included, as a religious order priest, in the list of publicly accused priests that the Archdiocese published in 2004.

The Archdiocese said that it is “committed to transparency and has established reporting and prevention policies and programs to protect minors and support victim-survivors in our parishes, schools and ministries.

“The Archdiocese does not tolerate anyone who does harm to a child or vulnerable person and remains committed to the support and healing of victim-survivors and to

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