Former SR Bishop Ziemann Accused of Abusing Altar Boy

Press Democrat
July 7, 2002

G. Patrick Ziemann, the former Santa Rosa bishop who resigned during a sex scandal in 1999, is being sued by a man who says the bishop abused him for nearly two decades in Southern California.

A lawsuit filed Friday in Los Angeles accuses Ziemann of molesting an altar boy in a sexual relationship that began in 1968 and lasted nearly 20 years.

Ziemann, 60, now lives in an Arizona monastery. He couldn't be reached Saturday for comment.

The lawsuit claims that Ziemann initiated a sexual relationship with an altar boy that lasted until his appointment as auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles in 1987.

It further alleges that church officials in Los Angeles and San Francisco recommended Ziemann for appointment as bishop of the Santa Rosa Diocese in 1992 "in part as a reward for his agreement to engage with them in a conspiracy to conceal sexual abuse" within the church.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said the church hadn't seen the lawsuit and couldn't comment in depth, but he did say the charge that Ziemann was promoted to bishop because of influence exerted by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony was nonsense.

"That's absolutely not true," spokesman Todd Tamberg said. A bishop's appointment is "a secret process (by the Vatican) that not even Cardinal Mahony would know the specifics on."

Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh refused to discuss the allegations against his predecessor. "No comment," he said.

When he was appointed two years ago, Walsh inherited a diocese mired in debt and reeling from Ziemann's disclosure that he had had a sexual relationship with one of his subordinates, the Rev. Jorge Hume Salas.

Salas subsequently filed a lawsuit accusing Ziemann of forcing him to engage in sex in exchange for withholding from police evidence of Salas' admitted theft of church collection money.

Ziemann's lawyers said that the affair was consensual and that Salas filed the suit after seeking an $8 million settlement. The suit was settled in 2000 for $535,000 and Salas is no longer affiliated with the Santa Rosa Diocese.

In the latest suit, the plaintiff alleges that Ziemann began molesting him while he was a sixth-grade altar boy at St. Matthias Church in Huntington Park.

John Manly, a Costa Mesa attorney who represents the 47-year-old plaintiff, said he wouldn't comment on the suit at this time.

The lawsuit does not name the accuser.

The plaintiff claims he was abused when he was forced to take a shower with Ziemann after playing basketball.

The plaintiff alleges that when he was 17 Ziemann began paying him for various sexual acts, and he continued the relationship after being named spiritual director of the now-closed Queen of Angels Seminary in the San Fernando Valley in 1985.

Manly, who filed the suit with attorney Kelly Clark of Portland, Ore., was co-counsel in a record $5.2 million payout by the Los Angeles and Orange dioceses to settle molestation claims against Monsignor Michael Harris.

In that suit, the victim alleged that Ziemann, during his days as a priest in Los Angeles, had been told about similar complaints against Harris by another victim, but did nothing.

Ziemann had been Harris' spiritual adviser at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo.

Barely a year after Ziemann arrived in Santa Rosa, he was confronted with the first allegations of sexual abuse by a local priest. Ziemann suspended the Rev. Gary Timmons, who was eventually sent to prison, but he also loaned him $40,000 in church funds to pay his attorney fees.

Several other priests were suspended following sexual misconduct allegations during Ziemann's tenure and the church paid the first of what became $7.4 million in legal settlements, which, coupled with free spending on ministry programs, left the diocese some $16 million in debt when he resigned.

Since leaving Santa Rosa, Ziemann, who remains a bishop, has lived at the Holy Trinity Monastery and Holy Family Convent in St. David, Ariz.

This report includes information from the Los Angeles Times and Staff Writer Sam Kennedy.


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