Diocese Faces Lawsuit Amid Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse

By Shanna Sissom
Midland Reporter-Telegram
December 30, 2009

A civil lawsuit has been filed against the church and estate of a priest who killed himself amid allegations of child sexual abuse in 2003, the San Angelo Diocese confirmed late Tuesday.

The Rev. David Espitia was found hanging inside his Colorado City residence just days after reporting to Bishop Michael Pfeifer he had been accused of sexually assaulting a minor. Both contents on his computer and a suicide note the priest left were confiscated by investigators at the time. Espitia was scheduled to be transferred to Odessa at the time, and denied the allegations.

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are the San Angelo Diocese and Pfeifer.

"Today I regret to report that a suit has been filed in Tom Green County against the estate of Fr. David Espitia, deceased, and against the Diocese of San Angelo," Pfeifer said in a press release. "I am dismayed by the claim that the diocese, and I personally, are somehow responsible for some claimed sexual abuse of a minor child, by the late Fr. Espitia."

Pfeifer went on to say no other allegations were ever brought to their attention, and that at the time they learned of the accusations, assistance was offered to the alleged victim in accordance with church policies. He said it is the policy of the diocese, as required by state law and in accordance with church moral requirements, that any incident of alleged abuse of a child be reported.

"Now that the legal process has just begun, the diocese has no other statement to make," Pfeifer said. "However, we do want to stress very strongly our constant concern for all victims of sexual abuse, and have always been willing to offer proper assistance to such victims."

An attorney for the plaintiff could not be reached late Tuesday.


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