Credible Allegations of Abuse
Priest Defrocked, Salesians Sued in Unrelated Sexual Molestation Cases

California Catholic Daily
February 1, 2008

Allegations of sexual abuse against two priests have led to the removal of one from ministry and to a lawsuit against the Salesian order.

The Sacramento diocese announced on Jan. 28 that it had permanently removed the Rev. Francisco Hernandez-Tovar from ministry after a diocesan investigation found accusations against him to be credible.

A man now in his 30s told diocesan officials last summer that he had been molested by Hernandez-Tovar over 20 years at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Colusa. Hernandez-Tovar served at the parish from 1986-1988.

Sacramento diocesan spokesman Kevin Eckery told the Sacramento Bee that a church review board investigated the alleged victim's claims and found them credible. Bishop William Weigand then barred Hernandez-Tovar from ministry. The priest will no longer receive a salary from the diocese or be permitted to reside on church property.

The diocese reported the allegations to Colusa County law enforcement, but a sheriff's spokesman told the Bee, "There's nothing we can do because the statute of limitations has run out." No other accusations have been brought against Hernandez-Tovar. The diocese says it is investigating whether there are any other victims.

In the second case, on Jan. 22, three siblings a man and his sisters filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging that the Salesian Society failed to protect them and other young people from Fr. Titian Miani, who, say the plaintiffs, repeatedly molested them in the mid-1960s.

The lawsuit alleges the Salesians routinely transferred members, "often internationally," who abused children. In 2003, under a California law that removed the statute of limitations in criminal abuse cases, Miani was criminally charged for allegedly abusing a youth. But the case was later dropped when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state law unconstitutional.

The Salesians, who have had other abuse cases brought against them, refused to join the $660-million settlement last July between the Los Angeles archdiocese and molestation victims.

According to Miani's personnel files, he was accused of assaulting a young boy during a church retreat in Italy in 1947. He was later transferred to a Salesian boys home in Canada, where three students there said he molested them. Miani then served two four-year stints at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, where he allegedly molested the three siblings who brought the lawsuit. Case records show that the Los Angeles archdiocese sent a letter to the society informing the Salesians of an abuse allegation against Miani.

Miani, now 80, who last served at a parish near Stockton, has denied all allegations of misconduct.

The civil trial is scheduled for March.


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