Catholic Policy Revised - Archdiocese to Add Sexual Harassment

By J. Michael Parker
The Express-News
January 24, 1995

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio has expanded its policy for responding to sexual abuse charges to include sexual harassment and exploitation.

But a Von Ormy woman, whose teen-age son was victimized by a priest several years ago, complains that victims' families weren't consulted in the revision.

The original policy adopted in 1985 covered only sexual abuse allegations against priests.

It now covers sexual harassment and exploitation as well, including everyone who works in either paid or volunteer capacity with the archdiocese or its parishes or agencies, said Monsignor Lawrence Stuebben, director of administration for the archdiocese.

The entire policy was published in Friday's edition of Today's Catholic, the archdiocese's biweekly newspaper.

The policy defines sexual harassment as inflicting unwanted sexual attention on a co-worker. Sexual exploitation is defined as sexual contact between a pastoral caregiver and the recipient of his or her pastoral care.

Six mandatory information sessions are scheduled - including three this week - for workers to become acquainted with the new policy's provisions.

Archbishop Patrick Flores, representatives of the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services and archdiocesan lawyers and insurers will explain the policy to an estimated 4,000 personnel.

Stuebben said that in 1988 two archdiocesan priests, one archdiocesan lay employee and two priests belonging to religious orders within the archdiocese were charged with sexual misconduct.

Charges against one priest were dropped in 1988 after two victims said testifying in a trial would be too traumatic. A civil case against him was settled out of court.

In 1994, the Rev. Xavier Ortiz-Dietz, an archdiocesan priest and pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Von Ormy and Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in Macdona, pleaded no contest to one charge of aggravated sexual assault and two of indecency with a child and received three 20-year prison sentences.

Also in 1994, Pasqual Palmerin, 48, a former faculty member at several Catholic schools in San Antonio, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and assessed a $10,000 fine after being convicted of indecency with a child.

Two priests indicted last year are awaiting trial.

The Rev. Carlos Lozano, 37, was indicted on one charge of sexual assault and three charges of indecency with a child.

The Rev. Johnny Davila, 43, was indicted on one count of indecency with a child involving a teen-age girl.

Stuebben said the policy can't guarantee the elimination of wrongdoing, but believes it is "as complete, comprehensive and up-to-date as any in the nation."

He promised that whenever allegations are made against church personnel in the archdiocese, "they will be taken seriously. We won't sweep anything under the rug."

Stuebben said the rights of both victims and alleged perpetrators must be protected when evaluating allegations.

The policy states that "innocence is always presumed unless facts prove otherwise. At all times, it is expected that an allegation brought by the one directly involved or by that person's parent or legal guardian is based on fact and is an honest representation of the truth."

Of the more than 53,000 Catholic priests in the United States, an estimated 400 have been linked to the sexual abuse of children. Their cases have led to hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits against dioceses and religious orders.

Michele Petty, a San Antonio attorney who represented several victims against an archdiocesan priest in Von Ormy, hasn't seen the revised policy but said it's about time something was done.

"This should've been done seven years ago," Petty said. "In the past, there would be rumors about a priest and the archdiocese would say, 'We don't have any clear knowledge of any abuse.' " People don't come to lawyers unless they're angry.

"Dioceses really don't know how to deal with people who go to them with things like this."

A client of Petty's, who said Ortiz-Dietz abused her son several years ago, complained through a friend that the policy revision was made without consulting victims and their families.

"A priest told us they were hoping to work on a revision and perhaps we could help them, but we were never consulted," the woman said.

She also said the archdiocese ignored her initial complaints about the priest and said victims should be able to complain to the

archdiocese's insurance carrier if they receive no cooperation from the archdiocese. harrassment

Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.