$21 Million Suit Filed in Alleged Seductions by Priests
By Roger Gillott
February 8, 1984
Los Angeles - A woman who claims she was seduced by seven priests as a teen-ager and had a baby by one of them has filed a $21 million lawsuit against the priests and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The suit by Rita Milla and her mother contends that one of the priests suggested she have an abortion. The suit says she told two bishops of the situation but they did nothing.
At that point, Miss Milla, who had been planning to become a nun, "lost faith in the Catholic Church," the suit says.
"We believe this is the first case in the United States involving clergy malpractice in which a number of priests are alleged to have been engaging in sexual intercourse with their parishioner," said the Millas' attorney, Gloria Allred.
The Superior Court suit, which seeks $15 million in damages for the 22-year-old Miss Milla and $6 million for her mother, alleges civil conspiracy for breach of fiduciary duty, undue influence, fraud, deceit and clergy malpractice.
It contends the girl was 16 and a virgin when the first sexual advances toward her were made by the Rev. Santiago Tamayo. The alleged actions included taking her into a private room at St. Philomena's Church in Carson to kiss her and reaching through the broken screen of a confessional to fondle her breasts.
The suit claims Tamayo took the girl to his brother's apartment "once or twice per month" to have sex, after telling the girl's mother he was taking her to do missionary work at convalescent homes.
On a number of occasions, more than one priest participated in the intercourse, including once in April 1980 when four priests took her to a Los Angeles motel, the suit alleges.
In a separate filing, Ms. Allred asked the court to determine the father of Miss Milla's 16-month-old child. It names the Revs. Henry Caboang of Los Angeles and Valentine Tugade of Monterey as the probable fathers.
Both priests allegedly had intercourse with Miss Milla in the rectory of St. Peter and Paul's Church in Wilmington on the same day in January 1982.
The suit also names Tamayo and the Revs. Angel Cruces and Sylvio Lacar of the Los Angeles archdiocese, Rev. Rubin Abaya of New Jersey and Rev. Victor Balbin of the Philippines. All the alleged seductions occurred in the Los Angeles area.
"This is a sad, sad case, but it is just the tip of the iceberg," Ms. Allred said in a telephone interview.
"How could seven priests have seduced our client if this was not a widespread practice by priests, and how could these priests condone this conduct which they knew of by each other unless this was an accepted practice?"
The Rev. Joseph Battaglia, spokesman for the archdiocese, would not comment on the suit "because the matter is under litigation and it would not be fair to comment one way or the other."
However, he said that the archdiocese had placed no restrictions on the accused priests and is not investigating the allegations.
The church "will let this take its course in a court of law ... (and) will wait until the court makes a decision of the true facts" before taking any action, he said.
Miss Milla "was raised as a devout Catholic. Her lifelong ambition was to become a nun," the suit says.
When it was discovered Miss Milla was pregnant in early 1982, the suit contends, Tamayo suggested she have an abortion, but she refused. He then arranged for her to go the Philippines to have the baby, telling the mother that the girl was going there to study medicine, the suit said.