San Bernardino: Attorney Says Priest Had Student Sleepovers

By David Olson
The Press-Enterprise
September 17, 2011

A retired priest and former San Bernardino high school teacher suspected of sexually abusing at least five boys sometimes invited his students to sleep overnight at his rectory, an attorney for some of the alleged victims said.

"He would say things like, 'If you are ever drunk and don't want to go home, you can crash at my place,' " attorney Rebecca Rhoades said.

The invitations were part of the Rev. Robert J. Donat's efforts to "put himself out there as a buddy, someone to trust," said Rhoades, who based the allegations on conversations with alleged victims.

Reached at his home in Torrance, in Los Angeles County, Donat declined to comment. He referred inquiries to his Torrance attorney, Dennis McGoldrick, who also declined to comment.

Donat taught at Aquinas High School between 1969 and 1993, said John Andrews, spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino. He then served as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Montclair until his retirement in 2006.

The diocese this week sent letters and emails to about 1,600 students who attended Aquinas while Donat was there to notify them of an allegation by one man, who said he was abused in 1973. A letter was read to parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes last weekend, Andrews said. Potential victims were encouraged to come forward. Donat was stripped of priestly duties more than a month ago.

Andrews said only one man has talked to the diocese about alleged abuse. Rhoades said other alleged victims have contacted her firm.

Andrews said that while Donat was in San Bernardino, the priest lived in rectories at St. Bernardine parish and the former St. Anne parish.

Rhoades said Donat sometimes invited more than one boy to sleep over at his rectory and at least once offered alcohol. The victims were aged 14 to 17, she said.

Rhoades said one victim said he was abused in one room in the rectory. Other abuse occurred in cars or out of town, she said.

Two parishes and one hospital in the Los Angeles area where Donat sometimes ministered since 2006 will be notified of allegations against Donat in coming days, Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the Los Angeles archdiocese, said Thursday.

Joelle Casteix, Western regional director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the archdiocese also should notify people in Donat's Torrance neighborhood.

Tamberg could not be reached Friday to clarify whether neighbors will be notified.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.