Abuse Lawsuit Names Dead Priest

By Guy Kovner
Press Democrat
November 15, 2002

A former Calistoga altar boy has filed a lawsuit accusing a Catholic priest who died 11 years ago of repeatedly molesting him and alleges that Santa Rosa diocese officials did nothing to stop it.

The alleged victim, now 46, married for 25 years and a father of six children, lives in Amador County and is entitled under state law to remain anonymous, said one of his attorneys, Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul, Minn.

The Rev. Patrick M. Gleeson, a North Coast priest for 38 years, allegedly molested the boy "dozens and dozens of times" from 1968 to 1972, when Gleeson was pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Calistoga, the lawyers said Thursday.

Gleeson, a native of Ireland, died in 1991 at age 66, after serving the previous six years at St. Joseph's Church in Cotati and earlier at St. Apollinaris in Napa.

The two bishops who headed the diocese during the period of the alleged abuse — Leo T. Maher and Mark Hurley — also are dead.

Gleeson had not been previously accused of sexual abuse, nor was his name one of the seven submitted by the diocese to county prosecutors in August, said Dan Galvin, diocese attorney.

Galvin said he had not seen the lawsuit but acknowledged the circumstances are challenging.

"It makes it very difficult for us to evaluate the validity of the claim when we can't talk to the alleged perpetrator," he said.

Bishop Daniel Walsh, who attended the bishops' national conference in Washington, D.C., this week, could not be reached for comment. Diocese spokeswoman Deirdre Frontczak said there was no record of sex abuse allegations against Gleeson in church files.

Filing of the suit against Gleeson and the diocese's past and present bishops brings to 12 the number of Santa Rosa diocese priests accused of sexual misconduct since 1994. Six have been named, including two — Gary Timmons and Don Kimball — who have been convicted on criminal charges.

Six others were reported by the diocese to the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office in August, but the diocese and the district attorney have refused to release their names.

The lawyers representing the Amador County man filed a similar lawsuit two weeks ago accusing diocese officials of concealing Kimball's long-term sexual relationship with a teen-age girl from 1976 to 1982.

At that time, the lawyers said they knew of 12 other sex-abuse victims of Kimball whose legal claims could lead to damages against the Santa Rosa diocese in the tens of millions of dollars.

The lawyers, Anderson and Larry Drivon of Stockton, said Thursday they are handling almost 200 sex-abuse claims that have been or will be filed, covering every Catholic diocese in California.

They filed a separate lawsuit earlier Thursday in Hayward involving a 5-year-old girl allegedly molested by a priest in the Oakland Diocese.

A new state law, which Drivon helped write and state Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco, sponsored, creates a one-year window, opening Jan. 1, for sex-abuse lawsuits to be filed, regardless of how long ago the alleged crimes occurred.

Anderson said he has handled more than 600 sex complaints nationwide, costing the church more than $70 million.

Asked why he continues to file lawsuits, Drivon said that Catholic bishops "have done nothing in 2,000 years" to address the problem.

"They continue to protect themselves and put the children at risk," he said.

The Amador County man has suffered long-term depression and post-traumatic stress disorder because of the alleged abuse by Gleeson, his attorneys said.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, does not name the diocese or any bishop. Names cannot be listed until the lawyers submit to a judge a mental health professional's statement that the victim's claims are credible, Anderson said.


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