S.F. Archdiocese Settles Abuse Suit

Contra Costa Times (California)
May 22, 2000

SAN FRANCISCO The Archdiocese of San Francisco has reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought by a teen-ager who accused a priest of physical and mental abuse.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but an attorney for the youth called them "significant." The suit claimed damages of more than $50,000.

"It clearly indicates the archdiocese recognizes the validity of the allegations," said attorney Justine Durrell. "They probably had concerns about going to trial."

Church spokesman Maurice Healy said the archdiocese's insurance carrier paid the settlement, describing it as "a standard release of all claims."

The trial was to start today in San Francisco Superior Court.

The Rev. James Aylward was found with the youth in a darkened rectory room at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Burlingame by a fellow priest in November 1997.

Aylward later claimed the one-time incident was "horseplay and wrestling," and publicly apologized.

Police and the San Mateo County district attorney's office found insufficient evidence to file criminal charges. The archdiocese's internal review concluded that Aylward's conduct was inappropriate but not sexual.

Last spring, the former altar boy sued, alleging he'd been "physically and mentally abused" by Aylward for more than a year.

Aylward would force the teen-ager, identified as John Doe, to wrestle with him, "forcing him to the ground and getting on top of him," according to the suit.

The teen-ager also claimed the archdiocese sanctioned the misconduct by failing to discipline or remove the priest from the parish.

In February, Aylward admitted in a deposition that he had a history of inappropriate touching of minor boys. He said archdiocese officials had never asked him whether he had engaged in such conduct with other youths.

The archdiocese said it pointedly asked Aylward about inappropriate contact with other youths and he denied it.

Aylward is currently on administrative leave.


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