Stockton Diocese Has Settled Another Sex Abuse Claim

By Kevin Valine
Modesto Bee
December 16, 2010

The Stockton Diocese recently settled another sexual misconduct claim lodged against a priest who had served in Stanislaus County.

The diocese paid $300,000 on Sept. 22 to resolve a claim against the Rev. Leo Suarez. The Catholic diocese said in a statement Wednesday that it paid half of the amount, with the other half coming from insurance proceeds.

The diocese announced in January that Suarez had been removed from serving as a priest after he came forward with an admission that he had engaged in inappropriate behavior with a minor about 20 years ago while serving at St. Anthony's parish in Hughson.

The diocese, which has about 40 parishes in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, foothills and Sierra Nevada, paid $2 million in June to a brother and sister who had filed lawsuits claiming they had been sexually abused by Oliver O'Grady in the early to mid-1980s while they attended the Church of the Presentation in Stockton and Presentation Catholic School.

O'Grady, who also served in Hughson and Sacred Heart in Turlock, is one of the nation's most notorious pedophile priests. The diocese has paid more than $20 million to settle sexual abuse claims against the former priest.

A lawsuit was not filed against the diocese or Suarez, who served last year at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Modesto. The diocese has not said how old the minor was or if the victim was a boy or girl.

Under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, established by the nation's Catholic bishops in 2002, Suarez never again will be allowed to serve as a priest.

In January, the diocese said Suarez "has expressed deep sorrow over the hurt he has caused." The diocese said Wednesday that no other claims of misconduct have been made against Suarez.

A diocese spokeswoman said Wednesday that she did not know Suarez's whereabouts.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at or 578-2316.

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