Woes Continue for Stockton Diocese

By Alex George
Calaveras Enterprise
May 8, 2012

An unidentified 25-year-old man has filed a lawsuit against the Stockton Diocese, alleging defrocked priest and convicted pedophile Oliver O'Grady molested him at the age of 5.

O'Grady, who is serving a three-year prison term in Ireland for possessing child pornography, was assigned to San Andreas' St. Andrew's Parish in 1992, when the alleged incident occurred. O'Grady bounced around from parish to parish throughout the 1970s and '80s in what critics say was an effort by diocese officials to conceal sexual molestation allegations.

The complaint also names the Stockton Diocese's highest-ranking official, Bishop Stephen Blaire, who became the presiding bishop in 1999.

Blaire said he shared the complaint with the Calaveras County Sheriff's Office after receiving it Wednesday, but has not had the opportunity to review it.

"The Diocese of Stockton takes all accusations of sexual abuse very seriously," Blaire said in a statement. "We follow clear guidelines to ensure that accusations are handled appropriately and that we offer whatever help and healing we can to victims of sexual abuse."

In an unrelated case, O'Grady was convicted in 1993 of four counts of lewd and lascivious acts against the Howard brothers in Turlock. O'Grady was sentenced to 14 years, but served seven at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione before being paroled in 2000. Shortly after, O'Grady was deported to his native Ireland and was defrocked as a priest.

The plaintiff's lawsuit, filed last week in San Joaquin County Superior Court, alleges O'Grady molested him about six times between the ages of 5 and 6. Many of the alleged incidents occurred in the priest's rectory bedroom while O'Grady was babysitting, the lawsuit claims.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff refers to a "conspiracy of silence" on the part of the diocese. He alleges that when the diocese and parish found out about the allegations, they silenced him, opting not to report the abuse to law enforcement officials.

"(The) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants intentionally, conspiratorially, and fraudulently attempted to hide and conceal Defendant O'Grady's propensities and acts of sexual harassment, molestation and abuse from public scrutiny and criminal investigations," the suit stated.

In the 2006 documentary film "Deliver Us from Evil," O'Grady admits to molesting dozens of children during his time as a pastor. The documentary specifically focuses on former Stockton Diocese Bishop Roger Mahony; alleging that despite complaints from several parishes, the church lied to parishioners and local law enforcement while continuing to move O'Grady from Lodi, Turlock, Stockton and San Andreas.

In a deposition given by Mahony, he denies any knowledge of allegations against O'Grady during his priesthood. Mahony served as bishop of the Stockton Diocese from 1980 to 1985.

"What Cardinal Mahony did is he picked his own career, and he picked power and glory over the children," said Orange County attorney John Manly, who has represented victims in O'Grady's abuse cases.

The Diocese has spent millions of dollars settling lawsuits, including a $3.75 million dollar settlement involving former pastor Michael Kelly in April. Kelly, who also served at St. Andrew's in the early 2000s, was found liable of assaulting former altar boy Travis Trotter. Filed in San Joaquin Superior Court, Trotter said Kelly abused him while he was a priest at Cathedral of Annunciation in Stockton, and the Diocese hid the misconduct.

Following the verdict, Kelly was removed from the ministry and fled to his native Ireland, citing health issues related to stress as the reason for his departure. Despite leaving two days before being scheduled to testify in the liability phase of his trial, Kelly maintains his innocence.

Meanwhile, Calaveras County law enforcement officials are investigating Kelly on separate allegations that he abused a former altar boy at St. Andrew's Church. Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Hewitt said detectives are pursuing leads on possible victims, and a report can be expected within several weeks.

In the recent lawsuit filed against O'Grady, the plaintiff pointed not only to O'Grady, but dozens of other priests who have been accused of sexually molesting minors. The lawsuit states that based upon his history, members of the church should have known about O'Grady's "dangerous propensities and unfitness."

"The sexual abuse committed by Defendant O'Grady was a result of the tolerance and culture of sexual abuse fostered by prior Popes, former Archbishops, Bishops, clergy and laity," the plaintiff wrote.

A case management conference on the lawsuit is scheduled Oct. 2 in Stockton.



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