Catholic Diocese Sued in Sex Case

By Pamela Manson
Arizona Republic
July 10, 1993

A former altar boy at a Tempe church who claims that he was "sexually abused, molested and raped" for years by three Valley priests has filed suit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, seeking a minimum of $3 million.

Ramon Gomez, who now is in his late 20s and lives in Chandler, said the sexual assaults took place 12 to 14 years ago at three east Valley churches, as well as at other sites.

He contends that as a result, he has such severe mental and emotional illnesses and that he can't work.

His suit, filed June 30 in Maricopa County Superior Court, claims that the church failed to adequately train and supervise its priests.

It also names as defendants John Maurice Giandelone, who left the priesthood after pleading guilty in the mid-1980s to sexual conduct with a minor; Henry Perez, who left the priesthood to marry; and the Rev. Laurence Florez, a priest who retired because of health problems.

The Rev. Michael Diskin, assistant chancellor of the Phoenix Diocese, said the church has not been served with the suit and could not comment. Giandelone, who has married and lives in Fort Myers, Fla., declined to comment Friday. In 1985, he pleaded guilty to attempted sexual misconduct and sexual conduct involving a boy and was sentenced to one year in jail. Perez, of Orange County, Calif., could not be reached. In the Valley, the Catholic Church has been rocked by three high-profile cases involving priests, two of whom were convicted of sexually abusing minors.

In March, the Rev. Wilputte Alanson Sherwood of Chandler was arrested and charged with eight counts of sexual misconduct involving minors. He has pleaded guilty to attempted sexual conduct with a minor and attempted sexual exploitation of a minor. Both charges stem from sex acts with a 14-year-old boy in 1987.

Sherwood, who remains on paid leave, will be sentenced July 29. He faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 15 years in prison.

In April 1992, the Rev. Mark Lehman, associate pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Phoenix, was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole for fondling three young girls.

In December 1988, the Rev. George Bredemann, associate pastor at St. Catherine of Sienna Church in south Phoenix, was indicted for having sex with young boys.

He was found guilty in 1989 and sentenced to a year in jail and lifetime probation. After serving the jail time, he violated probation by trying to flee to Brazil. Arrested in Florida, he was sentenced to 45 years in prison.


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