Church Refuses to Name Names
New Suit against Humboldt Priest

By Emily Gurnon
North Coast Journal [California]
Downloaded January 23, 2004

Catholic officials are refusing to name four additional priests involved in sexual misconduct with children in the Santa Rosa Diocese, which stretches from Petaluma to the Oregon border and includes Humboldt County.

The diocese published a report in its November-December newsletter, sent to all church members, which described the molestation scandal as being wider than previously reported.

In response to a national survey by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University of New York, the local diocese tallied its statistics on "misconduct" by priests: Since 1962, out of 410 priests who have worked in the diocese, 16 were "involved in misconduct" -- four more than had previously been reported. The cases involved 59 known victims, and the diocese paid $8.6 million from insurance and its own funds to settle claims brought by victims.

Deirdre Frontczak, spokeswoman for the diocese, said this week that Bishop Daniel Walsh, who authored the newsletter report, was not releasing the names of the four additional priests.

"None of them are serving, they haven't been serving for many years, and the bishop doesn't see what the point would be," Frontczak said. She added that one of the priests had died, one was cleared of charges by a civil investigation and the other two have left the priesthood.

Frontczak said she did not know whether any of the four had worked in Humboldt County.

There are also an additional 12 pending cases from the past not included in the diocese's count but added because of a state law, authored by Sen. John Burton, that gave sex-abuse victims a one-year window to file civil suits in cases that were too old for criminal charges. The one-year period ended Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, a former Humboldt County priest previously convicted in cases involving sex with young boys was named in a new lawsuit by a 37-year-old San Francisco man, filed as a result of the Burton law. Joseph Canada alleged that Father Gary Timmons molested him at a youth retreat, on a camping trip at Camp St. Michael in Leggett, and at a church rectory in Rohnert Park.

Timmons, 63, worked at the Newman Center in Arcata, at St. Bernard's Catholic Parish in Eureka, and at St. Joseph Parish in Fortuna, and faced criminal and civil charges for molesting as many as 18 children. He was convicted on two counts of sexual molestation in 1996, served four years in state prison, and was released in 2000. He is now a registered sex offender; his current location was unavailable at press time.

Among the charges detailed in Canada's suit was an incident at Camp St. Michael, which Timmons had founded in 1963. Canada alleges that he attended the camp with Timmons in 1977, when he was 11. He said Timmons told him to sleep next to him and that the priest fondled him during the night. Canada said he felt "horrified and embarrassed," but thought he would be punished for reporting the molestation. Instead, he kept silent for many years.

Canada's lawsuit was filed in Sonoma County Superior Court in late November by Walnut Creek attorney Michael Meadows, who called Timmons "a classic predatory child molester."

"I don't have one doubt that he founded this camp so that he could have a place to have easy access to these boys while they were away from their families," Meadows said. "He would pick the most vulnerable children."

In a separate lawsuit filed in July, an unnamed 43-year-old Eureka man alleged that when he was between the ages of 9 and 14 he was molested by Timmons .