Diocese Again Seeks Dismissal of Suit over Alleged Molestation

By Gregg Zoroya
August 11, 1987

The Roman Catholic Church failed to take precautions when it learned a priest kept posters of the devil in his room, so the church should be liable for any crimes committed by the man, an attorney argued Monday in court.

The argument, posed by a lawyer for a Fullerton boy who contends he was molested by the Rev. Robert Foley in 1983, was the latest move aimed at keeping alive the child's $ 2.8-million lawsuit against the Diocese of Orange County.

The diocese asked Monday that the boy's lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court be dismissed because there was no way the church could have anticipated any alleged crime by Foley.

But Sherman Oaks attorney Robert M. Aran, representing the child and his mother, Joan Summers, said several considerations should have alerted the church to take a closer look at Foley.

Aran argued that since "homosexuality is known to exist and known to be a risk-producing activity among Catholic priests," psychological evaluations should be a standard requirement for priests.

In this particular instance, Aran said, the posters found in Foley's quarters before the alleged molestation should have raised suspicions.

They were evidence that Foley "maintained a fixation as to the devil," Aran alleged.

He told Superior Court Commissioner Eleanor M. Palk on Monday that if the discovery had prompted a psychological examination of Foley, the results might have called for severing any contact with children attending St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church in Anaheim.

Summers and her son were members of the church when the boy, then 8, was invited by Foley to accompany the church Boy Scouts on a camping trip in September 1983, according to the lawsuit. During the night, while the child was in a tent with Foley and one other boy, the priest molested him, the lawsuit alleges.

At the time, Foley warned the boy that "the devil would get him" if he told anyone, according to the lawsuit. When Summers later complained to the diocese, she was told that Foley had apologized and she was asked by a diocese official, "What more do you need?" according to the lawsuit.

On his own request, Foley was later transferred to the Diocese of London and Aran has been unable to serve him with the lawsuit.

Monday, diocese attorney Daniel H. Clifford of Tustin argued that the posters in Foley's room were no indication he would commit any alleged sexual assualt on the boy.

"We look at that as a direct infringement of the church's First Amendment Rights," Clifford argued before Palk.

The commissioner took the issue under submission, indicating she would issue a ruling this week.

During a court hearing in April, Palk threw out Summers' civil allegations against the church on the grounds that her lawsuit did not give any indication of how the church might have anticipated any sexual assault by Foley.

In rewriting and resubmitting the lawsuit, Aran included new facts such as the discovery of the posters.


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