Ziemann Denies Sex Abuse of Ex-Altar Boy

By Mike Geniella and Guy Kovner
Press Democrat
July 9, 2002

Former Santa Rosa Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann on Monday denied allegations that he sexually abused a former Southern California altar boy for nearly 20 years.

Ziemann, who has lived for the past two years at a monastery outside of Tucson, Ariz., responded through his Santa Rosa attorney to claims, including pay-for-sex allegations, in a lawsuit filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

"Bishop Ziemann said he's innocent of all charges," lawyer Steve Gallenson said.

He said Ziemann, 60, will "defend his innocence of false charges in the appropriate legal forum, and he's confident the truth will come out."

The lawsuit, filed by a Costa Mesa attorney and a Portland, Ore., lawyer on behalf of an unidentified 47-year-old man, does not name Ziemann as defendant, but Gallenson said Monday he learned about two weeks ago that Ziemann might be targeted in such a suit.

The suit alleges childhood sexual abuse, assault and battery against the victim, a former Huntington Park altar boy, as well as fraud and negligence by unnamed Catholic Church officials for concealing the alleged crimes, which occurred before Ziemann's appointment as Santa Rosa bishop in 1992.

Gallenson said neither he nor Ziemann had seen the lawsuit.

Gallenson said the suit cites only unnamed "John Does" because state law specifies that a defendant may not be named in sexual abuse suits without corroborative fact or testimony.

"It appears that they don't have corroboration of these charges," he said. "Frankly, I think it's outrageous conduct on their part."

Ziemann resigned

in 1999 as Santa Rosa bishop after a former Ukiah priest filed a lawsuit accusing the bishop of sexual battery, forced oral copulation and abuse of authority.

The Rev. Jorge Hume Salas said Ziemann forced him into a two-year sexual relationship in exchange for not telling police about Salas' admitted theft of church money. At the time, Ziemann admitted the sexual relationship but contended it was consensual. He accused Salas of filing the lawsuit after seeking a $8 million settlement, which Ziemann rejected.

Ten months later, the Santa Rosa Diocese agreed to pay Salas $535,000 to settle his claim against Ziemann.

The scandal also revealed that Ziemann's unchecked spending, including $2 million from his own discretionary fund, that left the diocese $16 million in debt. Law enforcement authorities said the 140,000-member diocese was the victim of "gross mismanagement."

For the past two years, Gallenson said, Ziemann has been engaged in a life of "prayer and study" while living at the Holy Trinity Monastery in St. David, Ariz.

Ziemann still holds the title of bishop and priest because ordination is for life under Roman Catholic Church law. There is a process called "laicization" by which a man may be removed from the priesthood, but until recently, it mostly involved cases where a cleric sought to be free of his religious vows, including chastity and poverty.

In wake of the sexual abuse scandal affecting the Catholic Church nationwide, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is considering a move that would automatically invoke the church process to "defrock" a priest who has been proven to be guilty of sexual abuse of a minor.

The Santa Rosa Diocese is not financially supporting Ziemann at the Benedictine monastery nor is it involved in his legal defense, said Dan Galvin, diocese attorney.

Galvin said he had "no idea" of the details behind Ziemann's residency at Holy Trinity Monastery.

A spokesman for the Tucson diocese could not be reached for comment Monday on how Ziemann is being paid. Ziemann also could not be reached for comment.

Costa Mesa attorney John Manly, who filed the latest lawsuit, declined to comment on the case.

Two church critics said they were not surprised by the latest allegations.

"I think it's only the tip of the iceberg," said Sister Jane Kelly of Ukiah. Kelly's public revelations in January 1999 about Ziemann's cover-up of Salas' church theft played a major role in the bishop's eventual downfall.

Kelly, a Catholic nun for 53 years, said she fervently believes that only a small number of the thousands of active priests in the United States are guilty of sexual abuse of children.

"But let me tell you, 80 percent of the church leaders have been involved in covering them up, and that is what's so rotten about this," she said.

Don Hoard, a retired Petaluma insurance agent, said he has long believed that Ziemann had a "history of sexual activity."

Hoard, whose son was molested by former priest Gary Timmons, said it seemed unlikely that a middle-aged priest would break his vow of celibacy for the first time. Ziemann would have been in his mid-50s when the acknowledged affair with Salas began.

The latest lawsuit alleges that Ziemann, ordained as a priest in Los Angeles in 1967, selected the victim as an altar boy at St. Matthias Church in 1968.

Ziemann allegedly befriended the victim, played basketball with him and began to fondle the boy when he was in the sixth grade. The two allegedly showered together after basketball games and engaged in mutual masturbation about 24 times, the suit says.

After the youth turned 17, Ziemann allegedly paid him for sexual contact, including fondling and oral sex, the suit says.

The suit also says church officials engaged in a "conspiratorial plan" to avoid disclosing Ziemann's alleged crimes.

Ziemann served as a teacher at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana and at now-closed Our Lady Queen of Angels Seminary in Mission Hills in the 1970s and '80s. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles in 1987 and moved to Santa Rosa five years later.

During his tenure in Santa Rosa, Ziemann removed three priests accused of sexual misconduct and secretly paid more than $560,000 in church funds to an unknown number of victims of abuse by priests.


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