Priest Abuse Lawsuit Singles out Diocese of Orange, All American Boys Choir Founder

February 16, 2017

In response to a recent lawsuit filed in Orange County alleging that a priest, who was the founder of the All American Boys Chorus, was allowed to sexually prey on children for years, Diocese of Orange officials Wednesday said he never worked in the county.

The lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court on Feb. 3 does not specify a defendant, but it refers to a priest, chorus and Diocese.

The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff, who is unnamed, was molested by a priest, who also is not named. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, identified the accused as Fr. Richard T. Coughlin, the founder and former director of the chorus in 1970.

Dogged by sexual abuse allegations in Boston, Coughlin was sent to California, SNAP alleged.

The alleged victims believed that the chorus was "run by a gregarious, charismatic and affectionate Catholic priest with an Irish brogue (who) would serve to uplift and inspire," according to the lawsuit.

"Instead (the priest) for decades since (the) 1950s had been sexually molesting boys, sheltered, protected and enabled by his church superiors," according to the lawsuit.

The Diocese of Orange issued the following statement:

"Our Diocese and the Church more broadly have publicly acknowledged past failings and have apologized personally to the victims of abuse and their families and worked to reach a fair resolution of every legitimate abuse claim, enabling victims to begin their healing.

The Diocese of Orange reached several such settlements with victim survivors of Richard Coughlin as part of the global settlement reached in 2003.

"This bold initiative to settle these long past clergy abuse cases in a respectful and humble manner and to institute strict procedures for the protection of children and young people has been seen as a model for others," they said. "We also took the unprecedented step of releasing all appropriate personnel files related to this settlement in May of 2005. Additionally all priests removed from public ministry related to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People are publicly available on our website.

"Richard Coughlin was ordained in the archdiocese of Boston in 1953 and incardinated in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in the 1960s, predating the Diocese of Orange, which was founded in 1976. Coughlin left parish ministry upon founding the All American Boys Choir in the early 1970s. Coughlin never served as a priest of the Diocese of Orange. "

Upon receiving allegations of abuse against Coughlin, then Bishop Norman McFarland permanently removed him from ministry in 1993. He has not served in any ministerial capacity since that time. Additionally, the Diocese of Orange has never and does not support Richard Coughlin financially.

The plaintiff in the suit was 10 when the priest began to molest him as a member of the chorus, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit alleges that Coughlin, despite complaints of abuse, was transferred to St. Michael's preparatory school in Orange. Despite a complaint in 1974 elsewhere, he was "given permission by the Los Angeles Archdiocese to teach and minister at St. Michaels an all-boys boarding school and junior seminary," the lawsuit alleges.

The priest "molested more children while he was assigned to St. Michael's," the lawsuit alleges.

Diocese of Orange officials sought to reassure the public that it is "deeply committed and remain vigilant in protecting and caring for children, our most cherished resource. The Church has worked hard to protect children. Much has been done but more needs to be done. Until abuse is no longer a part of society, the Church will continue its efforts to stop it."








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