L.A. Diocese Apologizes in Case of Priest Accused of Molestation

By Jeff Collins
Orange County Register
December 7, 2001

SANTA ANA, Calif. _ The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles publicly apologized to a former Santa Margarita High School student who accused the school's ex-principal of molesting him, officials said Thursday.

"We apologized," said Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the archdiocese. "The Catholic Church strongly condemns the kind of activity complained of in this case. We're committed to ensuring the safety of our ministries for our people, especially our children."

A letter of apology was being mailed to Ryan DiMaria, 28, of Laguna Hills, Calif., and a few other men who accused the former Rev. Michael Harris of molesting them, said Katherine Freberg, DiMaria's lawyer.

The Los Angeles Archdiocese and the Orange Diocese agreed to pay DiMaria a total of $5.2 million, make sure they had policies aimed at curbing sexual abuse and apologize.

The Orange Diocese issued a letter of apology earlier.

"I . . . wish to acknowledge the pain of all victims of such abuse and honor the strength and courage of those who come forward," Bishop Tod Brown wrote.

The apology completes the archdiocese's involvement in the lawsuit, Freberg said. The Orange Diocese has just one small matter to clear up to meet all settlement terms.

"The majority of our polices on sexual abuse have been in place for several years," Tamberg said. "We gathered those policies together for the judge, he agreed they were comprehensive and good, and he dismissed us from the case."

Freberg said the Pope removed Harris from the priesthood Nov. 13.

DiMaria said he believes the case created some change within the church and increased public awareness about the problem.

"I'm just really happy we were able to accomplish all that we did," DiMaria said. "For whatever reason, people just wanted to turn a blind eye to (what happened). That's what made it so tough for me as a victim."


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