Former Fresno Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse

August 17, 2011

Fresno - A former Fresno priest is now accused of sexually abusing boys in three different parishes, for the past 40 years.

A lawsuit filed in northern California claims the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno knew about the accusations against Father Don Flickinger, but did nothing to stop him from continuing to abuse boys.

The lawsuit makes some disturbing allegations of sexual abuse that went on at San Joaquin Memorial High School during the 1960's and 1970's.

Several sexual abuse victims gathered at St. John's Cathedral in Downtown Fresno Tuesday, handing out leaflets on sexual abuse.

It took 42 years, for Fresno resident Julie Kliegl, to finally acknowledge that she was raped by a man training to be a priest.

It happened when she was just 7 years old.

"I just thought it was a new form of punishment and I didn't want them to know about it because I didn't want it to happen again," said Kleigl.

She says neither her parents, nor the seminary, would acknowledge her pain.

"Just told every time I said anything that I was a liar. Finally I just stopped saying anything," said Kleigl.

It's a tragedy that has played out again and again in the Fresno diocese, according to the lawsuit.

23-year-old Matthew Frazer says he was sexually abused by Flickinger in San Jose, 10 years ago.

Flickinger's predatory behavior could date back four decades.

The lawsuit includes interviews from than a dozen people from Fresno.

The lawsuit claims that while Flickinger worked at San Joaquin Memorial, he would hand pick freshman boys, take them out of their classrooms and bring them to his office, where he would sexually abuse or harass them. Church officials allegedly knew about the abuse as early as 1972, but did nothing to stop it.

Court documents also show Flickinger's sexual advances were so well known on the campus, students had nicknames for the priest and warned each other about him.

The Fresno Diocese has neither confirmed nor denied the accusations, but a local deacon says, some priests have been sent to get professional help.

"Pray for both, pray for both. Because there is a sickness, we'll say, in this case we're talking about priests and their abuse. We pray for them, as well as for the victims," said Deacon Salvador Delatorre.

But victims say, prayer is not enough.

"Until they take some action, until they actually do something to protect children, and be more interested in children than protecting priests...that's when we'll see some change," said Tim Lennon, a demonstrator with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Church officials insist, changes in the way they deal with sexual abuse accusations, have been made.

"I assume that the lord Jesus, he don't want to cover up for no one. Not even a priest," said Deacon Delatorre.

The lawsuit seeks both money, and change.

It wants to stop churches from transferring priests, without warning parishes and neighbors of sexual abuse allegations against them.

Father Flickinger is now retired and currently lives in the diocese of Fresno.

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