Priest Ordered to Pay $1.6 Million in Sex Case

By Dan Morain
Los Angeles Times
February 29, 1992

A jury absolved the Catholic diocese on Friday of responsibility for a priest who repeatedly had sex with two women and fondled a third, but ordered the impoverished cleric to pay $1.6 million in damages.

Lawyer Geoffrey Beaty said the Catholic Church is "gratified to have been vindicated," adding that "one could surmise" that the women will collect nothing from Father Michael Dermody, who as a priest is paid $500 a month and evidently has no assets.

Beaty acknowledged that Dermody lied to his superiors, broke his vow of celibacy and violated the women. But he succeeded in convincing the Superior Court jury on the key monetary point that the diocese does all it can to prevent such misdeeds and is not liable for Dermody's acts.

The bizarre case included testimony of marijuana use, drinking, trysts in a public park, and sex in the rectory.

They were "horrible sex acts, sick stuff," said Randall Shanks, who represented the plaintiffs. The women testified that after the sex acts they would seek absolution by confessing to Dermody.

According to Shanks, Dermody seduced the women much as a child molester would trick a child. The women did not remember many of the acts, and only recently have been recalling some details.

"This is justice?" asked one plaintiff, Kathleen Cannell, as she left the courtroom. She noted that the church is giving counseling to Dermody, but that bills for her counseling and other expenses are multiplying, and charged that the church has refused to take responsibility.

The jury awarded Cannell $1.3 million and another victim, Molly Emanuel, $250,000. A third victim, Kristine Hogan, was found to have suffered damages totaling $1.36 million but the jury barred her from collecting because she waited too long to report the abuse.


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