Lawsuit Claims Priest Molested Altar Boy in 1990s

By Eugene W. Fields
The Orange County Register
June 30, 2009

Joelle Casteix of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), wore a photograph of herself, taken in 1986 when she was attending Mater Dei High School. Casteix said she was sexually abused from 1986-1988 at the school. Tuesday, Casteix held a press conference in front of St. Norbert Catholic Church to announce a new lawsuit that her organization is filing for a plaintiff who says he was sexually abused as a boy by Msgr. Sinon Falvey.

ORANGE A 29-year-old man is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, alleging he was sexually abused by a priest when he was as an altar boy at St. Norbert Church in the 1990s.

The man, who is identified in the lawsuit only as John DC Doe, alleges he was molested from 1990 to 1992 and that the diocese knew about the molestations and did nothing to stop it.

The priest is not named in the lawsuit, but the man's attorney, Rebecca Rhoades, identified the priest as Monsignor Sinon Falvey.

Falvey served at St. Norbert's from 1976 to 1989. Rhoades said the abuse took place after Falvey retired but continued to live at the parish. Falvey died in 2005.

"Our client served as an altar boy and in the most sacred place, he was egregiously abused by someone who he was told he could trust," Rhoades said. "Our client is very damaged and it took him some time to get the courage to come forward, but he's found it."

The lawsuit, filed on June 25 in Santa Ana, claims that Falvey groomed the victim by gaining his trust and friendship. The relationship progressed to touching and sexual contact, the lawsuit claims.

Joelle Casteix of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who was sexually abused while attending Mater Dei High in the 1980s, said Falvey presented a problem for the diocese.

"He was a longtime pastor at this parish," Casteix said during a news conference Tuesday outside St. Norbert's. "Now we find out that not only did he cover up for abusers like Father John Lenihan, who abused at least two girls at this location but he abused himself."

Lenihan was removed from the priesthood in 2002 after admitting to having sex with under-age girls at St. Norbert's in the 1980s. The diocese has paid more than $1.5 million to settle multiple claims of abuse against Lenihan.

"No child was safe here," Rhoades said. "He did counseling. He did supervising of the altar boys. He was everywhere at this parish when he got here."

Diocese spokesman Ryan Lilyengren said the diocese was unaware of the lawsuit.

"The Diocese has not yet been served with this complaint, only becoming aware of this lawsuit through local media inquiry," Lilyengren wrote in an e-mail. "We will review this complaint in detail when received through the appropriate legal channels."

Casteix said her organization has been approached by other people who claimed to have been sexually abused by Falvey, including a woman who committed suicide.

"The Diocese of Orange knew that sexual abuse was wrong in 1990 and 1992," she said. "They knew sexual abuse was wrong up until 2005 when Monsignor Falvey died when he was living here at St. Norbert's. They knew it was wrong and they let it continue."

Casteix said the case is the fourth sex-abuse lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Orange this year.

In February, the diocese settled a lawsuit with a man who alleged that he was sexually abused as a child by a priest in Costa Mesa. In April, a former priest filed a lawsuit alleging that he was drugged and molested as a teenager by another priest in La Habra. In June, a former student filed a lawsuit alleging he was molested by two priests at a Huntington Beach parish in the early 1990s.

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