Clarification of Current Media Reports

Diocese of Orange
September 14, 2007

The courts give great latitude to lawyers in the way they represent their clients, particularly in cases involving civil litigation. In the current case involving former Mater Dei basketball coach, Jeff Andrade, certain lawyers have gone beyond the facts. Thus the Diocese of Orange issues the following clarifications:

It was reported that Bishop Brown “hid” an accusation of child sexual abuse made against him involving a boy in 1965. When the incident was brought to the attention of the Diocese of Fresno in 1997, the matter was promptly investigated by the Diocese of Fresno and the diocesan board set up to evaluate such alleged misconduct found that there was “absolutely no factual or credible basis whatsoever” for the claim. The Diocese of Fresno voluntarily turned over all its interviews and reports to the Kern County District Attorney’s office in 2002. The unsubstantiated allegation had already been disclosed earlier in the press.
It is alleged that the Bishop’s lack of disclosure breaks his “Covenant with the Faithful” which promised to be “transparent in . . . communication.” The allegation was judged by the Diocese of Fresno as not credible, and the entire file was subsequently submitted to the Kern County District Attorney’s office for their review. The “Covenant with the Faithful” does not require the disclosure of allegations which have no credible or factual basis, and must be interpreted in a manner consistent with the law. Indeed, the Bishop felt no obligation to disclose what he knew from his own experience to be untrue and that was judged twice as unsubstantiated. His fear of “embarrassment” reflected what he knew of how such a disclosure would be portrayed, a fact borne out by the recent press coverage and statements made by those with their own agenda.
It was reported that this was another example of how Bishop Brown is covering up the truth about sexual abuse in the church. When Bishop Brown agreed to settle with 90 alleged molestation victims in 2004, he released thousands of documents about what had gone on in the Diocese of Orange in the past. Bishop Brown has a well-earned reputation for his willingness to meet with victims and to disclose appropriate documents. In those documents released in 2004 and in the Bishop’s own statements in his deposition, it has been acknowledged that the Diocese of Orange had previously been slow to adopt an aggressive response to accusations of sexual abuse in prior years.
It was reported that the Diocese sought to “seal” the Bishop’s deposition in order that his testimony would not become known. A reading of the deposition shows clearly that the reason for seeking a “temporary seal” was to keep a few particular details of Msgr. Urell’s medical condition from being disclosed until the matter could be addressed as soon as possible by a judge. Ethics, California law and federal HIPAA regulation require such confidentiality of any employer.
It was reported that Bishop Brown and “his lawyers” spirited Msgr. Urell “out of the jurisdiction” as a legal tactic to prevent him from testifying. The recommendation to place Msgr. Urell in a residential treatment facility was made by Msgr. Urell himself, his doctors, his family and close friends and the diocesan Vicar for Priests, Father Christopher Smith. At no time was the diocesan legal team involved in making this decision. Patrick Hennessy, Msgr. Urell’s personal attorney, was consulted. Mr. Hennessy has made a statement available about Msgr. Urell’s medical condition. The statement is attached.
Msgr. Urell was sent to Southdown Institute in Aurora, Ontario, Canada, which was described as “hospital for pedophiles.” The Southdown Institute is a registered, non-profit charitable organization whose mission is to provide the highest level of support to persons actively committed to Christian ministry. For over 40 years, the Institute has endeavoured to respond to the needs of Catholic clergy and religious, as well as clergy from other religious traditions, by providing a breadth of services to those who are dedicated to serving the people of God. These services include the provision of consultation, clinical treatment and leadership education. ( It was selected for only one reason: the belief that there Msgr. Urell would receive the best possible care for his condition. Bishop Brown is committed to following the recommendation of medical professionals and providing the best possible treatment for priests in need of it.
It was reported that Msgr. John Urell refused to complete his deposition. After nearly six hours of answering numerous questions Msgr. Urell became so distraught that he was unable to finish his deposition; it remains an open question whether or not he will be able to complete it at a later date or to testify at trial. (Again, Mr. Hennessey’s statement covers this matter.)

Patrick Hennessey statement regarding Msgr. Urell


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