Woman Says S.F. Priest Molested Her in '70s
Woman Seeks Priest's Remova
S.F. Suit Claims '70s Molestation

By Bill Wallace
San Francisco Chronicle
August 9, 2002

A woman who says she was molested by a Roman Catholic priest in the late 1970s has called on the Archdiocese of San Francisco to remove the priest from his pastoral duties.

The woman filed suit against the archdiocese and the Rev. Daniel E. Carter in San Francisco Superior Court this week, seeking unspecified damages. She said Carter molested her in 1978 or 1979, when, as a child, she was seeing him for spiritual guidance at Notre Dame des Victoires Parochial School in San Francisco.

The woman, a San Francisco social worker, is not identified in the lawsuit.

Thursday, her lawyer delivered a statement to the archdiocese demanding that Carter be removed from his post.

In it, the woman said she had told the archdiocese about the alleged molestations in April. "I am disheartened by the Catholic Church's inadequate response," the woman said. "The church's inaction makes me wonder whether they are more committed to protecting their fellow priests than children."

Carter, 51, is the pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Belmont. Through his attorney, Joseph O'Sullivan, he flatly denied the alleged abuse.

"There is absolutely no basis for it in truth," O'Sullivan said. "He has no idea what motivates it. . . . He can't wait to vindicate himself in court."

Laurence Drivon, the woman's attorney, said Carter had served in previous clerical posts in San Francisco and Half Moon Bay and should be barred from further duties because of the seriousness of the allegations against him.

"Our primary purpose is to get this priest out of the diocese now," Drivon said. "The diocese has known about this man for years."

Drivon, accompanied by David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, delivered a copy of the woman's statement Thursday to Archbishop William Levada.

Maurice Healy, spokesman for the archdiocese, told them the allegations against Carter had been included with information the diocese turned over to San Francisco prosecutors earlier this year in response to a request from District Attorney Terence Hallinan. The archdiocese isn't planning to do anything more for now, he said.

"The archdiocese has taken the information seriously," Healy said. "It has turned it over to the police and the district attorney. . . . There is a legal process that needs to go forward, and that process is in place."

Earlier this week, Drivon also sued the Oakland diocese and a former priest, Robert Ponciroli, on behalf of an Arizona man who said Ponciroli had molested him while he was an altar boy at St. Ignatius Church in Antioch in 1980 and 1981. The plaintiff in that case is also unidentified in the lawsuit.

Sister Barbara Flannery, chancellor of the Oakland diocese, said she could not comment on the suit because she had not seen it yet. But she said she had received information from the alleged victim in March and had passed it to Antioch police within 24 hours.

"My understanding is they are moving forward," she said. "I don't know whether they are going to make a decision to prosecute or not."

She added that Ponciroli was removed from the ministry in 1995 after the Oakland diocese received an unrelated sexual molestation complaint against him.

Ponciroli, who now lives in Florida, declined to comment. "Have a nice day," he said before hanging up on a reporter.

Drivon also filed a suit against the San Jose diocese earlier this week, claiming that the church had protected another former priest, Joseph Pritchard, who died 14 years ago.

All three suits were filed under a new state law that makes it easier for victims to sue churches and other institutions for damages they suffered as the result of molestation.

The new law also gives plaintiffs a one-year window in which to file suits that were barred under the previous statute of limitations.


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