Priest Charged with Abuse of Boy, 13

By Peter Fimrite
San Francisco Chronicle
October 5, 2002

The former pastor of San Francisco's landmark St. Mary's Cathedral and a prominent figure in the Roman Catholic Church was charged Thursday in Marin County after allegedly molesting a boy around his 13th birthday in 1984.

The Rev. Milton T. Walsh was booked on charges of two counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old and is free on $100,000 bail. He was placed on leave in August from St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, where he has been a professor of theology since 1997. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

He is the latest area priest to be charged in a purge that began after a fresh wave of allegations of child abuse roiled the church this year. In May, San Francisco's Roman Catholic Archdiocese furnished prosecutors in Marin, San Mateo and San Francisco with the names of about 40 accused molesters connected with the church.

Walsh, 50, of Menlo Park, was once chairman of the San Francisco Interfaith Council and has been a staunch defender of the church.

According to an affidavit filed in Marin County Superior Court, he repeatedly fondled a 12-year-old boy's genitals and buttocks while the two swam in the Rolling Hills Country Club pool in Novato in 1984.

On the alleged victim's 13th birthday on July 26, 1984, Walsh cornered the boy in the shower at the club and rubbed his genitals, according to the affidavit.

Walsh, who had befriended the alleged victim's parents while he was assistant pastor at Novato's Our Lady of Loretto parish, later went to the boy's house for a birthday party and spent the night. He allegedly got up in the middle of the night and fondled the boy again.

The affidavit says the boy told his parents the day after his birthday and they reported the incident to Archbishop John Quinn. The archbishop discouraged the parents from going to police, assuring them that Walsh, who had served for two years as his personal secretary, would get psychiatric help and would not reoffend.

After the archdiocese forwarded the names to law enforcement this spring, the alleged victim telephoned Walsh under the direction of Novato police. During that call, the affidavit said, Walsh apologized for touching the boy's penis and admitted he was motivated by a desire for sexual gratification.

Walsh, who was pastor of St. Mary's from 1989 to 1997, is the second person to oversee the cathedral's 1,000-member congregation to be implicated in sex abuse. Monsignor John O'Connor, who was pastor for five years, was among those on the archdiocese's list of people accused of abusing children. He has not been charge but has taken a leave of absence from his post.

San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties are evaluating the cases for possible prosecution.

In an opinion piece in The Chronicle in 1995, Walsh defended his celibate lifestyle, saying he was happy, but he made a revealing admission that, in light of his arrest, carries more weight today than it did then.

"I have let people down," he wrote, "and in some instances wounded people deeply. Again, why should I think that I can be preserved from failure? No one else is."


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