Lawsuit Alleges Abuse by Priest 49 Years Ago || Courts - Local Church Officials Are Accused of Failing to Supervise the Visiting Priest

By Carol McGraw
Orange County Register
June 26, 2002

A lawsuit filed this week against the Catholic Diocese of Orange added a new twist to the sex abuse scandal, accusing church officials of failing to supervise a visiting priest who is accused of molestation.

Thomas Dorrell, 62, of Santa Clarita filed the lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court alleging that Father Sylvester Hoppe of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, molested him 49 years ago at the Irvine Ranch during the Third National Boy Scout Jamboree. He alleges more than 50 other molestations followed over a two-year period.

The Archdiocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Archdiocese of Los Angeles also are named in the suit for failing to supervise the priest and concealing information.

More than 45,000 boys attended the Jamboree in 1953, which honored President Eisenhower. The suit says Hoppe took a group of boys by train to the Jamboree and molested Dorrell in a tent.

"What Father Hoppe did was a violation of the Mann act, taking a minor across state lines for the purpose of assault and battery and rape," says Dorrell's attorney, Paul A. de Montesquiou of Calabasas.

Hoppe, 91, lives in St. Joseph, Mo., and retired from active ministry in 1991. He denied the allegations.

His attorney, James Wyrsch of Kansas City, said, "We plan to vigorously defend against these allegations."

Hoppe ran a Catholic orphanage in St. Joseph, where Dorrell says he was placed temporarily when his parents separated. Dorrell says he was told that because he was not a Catholic he had to be housed in the rectory with Hoppe. There he was fondled and forced to fondle the priest, the suit says.

Dorrell, a Valencia sporting-goods executive, says he did not tell anyone: "I was 12 years old and scared."

The suit maintains that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Orange County church officials were responsible for supervising the priest while he was in California. Priests often obtain so-called temporary faculties while visiting another dioceses.

Maria Schinderle, Orange Diocese spokeswoman, said, "We know nothing about Father Sylvester Hoppe." She added that Orange County was part of the Los Angeles Archdiocese until 1975.

At the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, spokesman Tod Tamberg said, "That was a half-century ago. We have no record that he was ever assigned here, or ever contacted the diocese."

Becky Summers at the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph said there are no other complaints in Hoppe's file. After Dorrell came forward in April, they prohibited Hoppe from performing public sacraments -- which retired priests sometimes do -- until the investigation is complete, Summers said.

Dorrell took action after his sister sent him an article from a Missouri newspaper. It quoted a bishop saying that diocese had a clean record. "I wanted them to know that isn't true," he said. The diocese offered him free counseling, which he accepted.

He says he spent much of his youth drifting and had several failed relationships. He is now married and has seven grandchildren. He eventually told family members, and in 1985 contacted police in Excelsior Springs, where the priest was serving. Authorities say they have no report.

Dorrell says he is an agnostic. "Father Hoppe made me go to church, and I had to sit there and watch him say Mass. Church was ruined for me."


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