Lawsuit: Humboldt Man Molested As a Child by Santa Rosa Diocese Priest

By Paul Payne
Press Democrat
August 19, 2010

[the lawsuit]

[Bishop's letter]

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa was sued Thursday by a 35-year-old Humboldt County man who claims the church committed fraud by employing a known pedophile priest in Eureka in the 1980s without warning parishioners.

The man, identified only as a John Doe, was a 9-year-old altar boy when the priest repeatedly molested him, the lawsuit alleges.

His suit filed in Sonoma County Superior Court states that the diocese assigned Rev. Patrick Joseph McCabe as assistant pastor at St. Bernard Catholic church and school in 1983 knowing that he had just attended a treatment center in Albuquerque, New Mexico for priests involved in sexual misconduct with children.

It was there that he was diagnosed as a pedophile and placed on drugs to curb his sexual impulses, according to an official report by the Archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland.

The report states that Archbishop Dermot Ryan of Dublin arranged with former Santa Rosa Bishop Mark Hurley to transfer McCabe to the North Coast diocese .

“It appears that Archbishop Ryan asked him (Hurley) to, as it were, ‘rid me of this troublesome priest,' and Bishop Hurley agreed,” the report states.

In Eureka, McCabe molested the boy, the lawsuit alleges, pulling him out of third-grade class for incidents over a period of six to nine months. McCabe was then transferred to St. Elizabeth Church in Guerneville in 1985 after the diocese received a credible report of criminal child sexual abuse, the suit claims.

McCabe returned to Ireland in 1986 and was removed as a priest two years later. He later returned to the Unites States.

Joseph George, the Humboldt County man’s lawyer, contends the diocese never warned parishioners it had placed a pedophile in their midst, breaching their obligation to protect children and exposing them to molestation.

“The diocese never reached out to Catholic families at St. Bernard’s in 1985 or at any other time to advise them to talk to their children,” George said. “As a result, many of McCabe’s victims kept silent and remained shrouded in guilt and shame.”

He said his client came forward when he learned that McCabe, now 74, was being held in an Alameda County jail, awaiting extradition to Ireland to face charges of sexually molesting six boys from 1973 to 1981.

George said he has since heard from at least one other man who claims McCabe molested him at the Eureka parish and a second lawsuit might be forthcoming.

“The people who have contacted me are outraged,” George said. “He was obviously extremely aggressive. He would pull people out of third-grade class, for God’s sake.”

Bishop Daniel Walsh, who since 2000 has been head of the diocese representing 167,000 Catholics from Sonoma County to the Oregon, did not return calls Thursday seeking comment. An assistant referred inquiries to attorney Dan Galvin, who also did not respond.

A letter from Walsh dated Aug. 17, posted to the St. Bernard website, acknowledges McCabe had been assigned more than 20 years ago and urges anyone who might have been mistreated by the priest to contact the church.

Walsh’s letter denies the diocese received sexual misconduct complaints against McCabe but said “he might have harmed some young children during his time here.”

“I am writing to ask anyone who might have been mistreated by this priest to come forward so that the church might apologize and ask forgiveness as well as offer help to overcome any damage done,” Walsh said.

Advocates for more openness in the sex abuse scandal that first rocked the diocese in 1994 said the letter was an attempt to circumvent involvement by criminal authorities.

Joey Piscitelli of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said Walsh has a track record of protecting pedophile priests. He cited the 2006 case of Father Xavier Ochoa, who admitted to Walsh that he had molested children in Sonoma County but then fled to Mexico during the several-day delay before Walsh reported the admissions to police.

“The letter doesn’t say ‘call police,’” Piscitelli said. “It says to call his people. His track record clearly shows he protects pedophiles. It’s blatant.”George concurred.

“Bishop Walsh’s letter to ‘anyone who might have been mistreated’ is an affront to all victims of McCabe who were sexually abused, not mistreated,” George said. “If you ask me, the Santa Rosa diocese was an accessory to McCabe’s crimes.”

Before the revelations about McCabe surfaced, 17 Santa Rosa diocese priests have been accused of sexual misconduct dating back to the 1970s. Eight of the priests have been named by victims. The other nine have not been identified by Walsh, who has said they are dead or no longer serving in the diocese.

The diocese has paid about $25 million to settle lawsuits, a process that at one point helped bring it to the brink of bankruptcy.

The statute of limitations prevents criminal prosecution or civil lawsuits against McCabe on molestation charges in the latest case. But claims against the diocese for fraud, non-disclosure and negligent misrepresentation are good for three years, George said.

His client learned of McCabe’s history in a newspaper article three weeks ago, so he is within prescribed time limits, George said.

George said he filed a similar fraud lawsuit against the Los Angeles diocese in July.

“Had the diocese asked, it would have received reports from victims,” George said. “That was the last thing in the world the diocese wanted to deal with.”


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