Bakersfield Church, Fresno Diocese, Accused of Covering up Child Sexual Abuse Claims
By Emma Goss
KBAK / KBFX
January 2, 2020
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) -The Diocese of Fresno and St. Philip the Apostle church in Bakersfield are being sued. They're accused of covering up sexual misconduct by a pastor for decades.
Fr. Anthony Moreno, who served as priest at St. Philip the Apostle from July 1979 to December 1980, is being accused of molesting multiple children, according to a law suit filed in Fresno court this week.
"As a 12 year old, I was confused, and I thought I had done something wrong," Toni Moreland, a Fresno woman who filed the law suit, said at a press conference Thursday morning. She claims she was molested by Moreno while he was serving as priest in Bakersfield between 1979 and 1980. Her father reported the sexual abuse to the church soon after Moreland claims it happened. By December of 1980 he was moved to serve at Church of the Sacred Heart, in Fresno.
"I think that was the most troubling of all things, was to realize that they just moved Anthony to another parish. I thought that was what just happened to me." Moreland said.
The law suit alleges the Diocese of Fresno and St Philip's knew of her and another child that had been sexually abused by Moreno. The diocese of Fresno confirmed they'd received reports of this between 1979 and 1980, adding that Moreno was moved to a Fresno parish in December 1980, and was put on administrative leave three years later. In 1983 there was a petition to have his clerical status revoked. And over a decade later in 1995 it was. He could no longer serve as a pastor.
In 2008 the allegations from 1979-1980 were re-submitted to the Diocese, and a third one emerged, involving law enforcement. The accuser did not accept an interview with the Diocese. The Diocese followed the mandatory reporting protocols in place, a spokesperson claims.
Now, thanks to AB 218, a new California law for 2020 called the Child Victims Act, cases like Moreldand's, dating back decades, that had exceeded the statute of limitations, now have a chance in court.
"The children of the Diocese of Fresno deserved better. The children of Kern County who were exposed to this perpetrator deserved better. And we must do better for them," Mike Reck, one of the attorneys representing Moreland, said.
AB 218 opens a three year window starting this year to file charges for any act of childhood sexual abuse, no matter how long ago it was. And there's a severe penalty for any institution or individual who is found to have aided in covering up the abuse.
Jeff Anderson & Associates, the attorneys representing Moreland, also published a list of all priests who have been accused of sexual misconduct in California. It includes 43 priests in the Diocese of Fresno. 15 of them served in Kern County for a period of time.