Suit Accuses Priest of Molesting 2 Girls

By Jeffrey M. Barker
Record [Stockton CA]
January 30, 2005

STOCKTON -- A lawsuit charging a former Stockton priest with molesting two girls while visiting their home has been scheduled for trial next month in San Joaquin County Superior Court.

The suit against the Rev. Francis Arakal and the Diocese of Stockton accuses the priest of fondling two girls in 2001. It also charges another priest and the church with reacting inappropriately when one of the girls attempted to report the molestation.

"Very rarely do these cases get to the point where trials are set," said Anthony Boskovich, a San Jose attorney representing the two girls, who are sisters, and their mother. All three live in Hughson.

Arakal is listed as a parochial vicar for St. Joseph's Church in Modesto.

Attorneys for the Stockton diocese -- Paul Balestracci and Vladimir Kozina, both of Stockton -- and for Arakal, Michael Coughlan of Stockton, each declined to comment on the case.

The case, filed in September 2002, described molestation that allegedly took place in 2001, when the girls were 11 and 13 years old. It accuses Arakal of touching the breasts of the older girl, and both the breasts and pelvic area of the younger girl during a visit to their home.

What's unique about the case, according to Boskovich and co-counsel George MacKoul of Falmouth, Mass., is how the church handled the incidents when they were reported.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the 13-year-old girl reported the acts in a confessional to Father Joseph Illo, another priest at St. Joseph's Church in Modesto, the lawsuit said. Violating the confidentiality of the confessional, Illo brought the girl before Arakal. ::: Advertisement :::

During a conversation, the priests browbeat the girl and called her a liar, according to the lawsuit. At one point, attorneys say, Illo told the girl, "All your mother wants to do is have sex with me."

"They terrorized the girl to the point that she was hyperventilating and couldn't move," Boskovich said.

After the confrontation, Arakal "began a systematic campaign [sic] of harassment" of the girls' mother, the lawsuit states.

"They have essentially been ostracized by their church," Boskovich said.

Arakal, 51, was born in India. He came to the United States in 1998, working first at St. Peter's Parish in Lemoore, under the Diocese of Fresno, and later at St. Joseph's Parish in Modesto, where he still works.

The attorneys have sued Illo before, in a defamation suit.

The mother has also charged both priests "libeled and slandered" her name and reputation, questioning her "chastity, mental capacity and personality."

Responding to that charge, the church delivered to Bishop Stephen E. Blaire an internal investigation that concluded Illo might benefit from counseling on gender boundaries because he is "an attractive man, physically, spiritually and socially." It also recommended a review of Illo's management style.

But the report was much more critical of the mother, suggesting she was at fault for "continued and frustrating attempts at establishing relationships," "the inclusion of her own minor children in the management of adult relationships," and for demanding leadership positions within the church.

The report recommended the mother seek counseling "for dealing with her current state in life."

Boskovich and MacKoul said attorneys for Arakal and the diocese are trying to have the trial delayed, a move they oppose.

David Clohessy, national director for the Survivors' Network for those Abused by Priests, said some kind of closure is important for the victims.

"This mother is very frustrated and worried because this priest is still out there," he said.


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