Community Service Ordered for Retired Priest in Molest Case

By Pam Slater
Sacramento Bee
February 23, 1993

A retired Jesuit priest was ordered to perform 120 hours of community service and was placed on five years' probation Monday in connection with the sexual molestation of a 7-year-old girl.

James Thomas Monaghan, a 78-year-old former priest at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Sacramento, had pleaded no contest to one count of felony child molestation that occurred sometime between March 20, 1988, and March 19, 1989.

Monaghan, sentenced in Sacramento Superior Court, also will have to register as a sex offender and continue psychiatric counseling.

The girl, now 11, had been undergoing counseling by Monaghan when he molested her as she sat on his lap, according to court documents.

Dr. Shawn A. Johnston, a court-appointed pychologist who evaluated Monaghan, said, "(I am) more inclined to imagine that this behavior was isolated and out of character for him."

"This strikes me as a rather sad case in which an elderly Catholic priest appears to have seriously stumbled after more than 50 years of service to his church and the community," Johnston wrote in his evaluation.

Monaghan retired in the fall of 1991 from St. Ignatius, where he presided as an associate pastor for 16 years.

The priest continued to deny that the incident ever took place, according to court records, and agreed to enter the plea only on the advice of his attorney and church superiors.

He acknowledged that the girl had sat on his lap and that he touched her stomach.

The victim's father said his daughter has been traumatized by the molestation that she did not reveal the episode until she told an older sister about three years later.

Her father said she has suffered from sleepless nights, nightmares and uncontrollable crying.

"Monaghan occupied a special position," her father said in a letter to the court. "He used his position to fulfill his evil desires without regard to the incalculable damage he has caused -- hiding behind a hypocritical appearance as a kindhearted priest."


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