Woman Sues Priest, Diocese for Abuse Denial

By Jennifer Garza
Sacramento Bee (California)
April 1, 2003

A former Vallejo woman is suing the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento and one of its priests because he told his congregation that he did not sexually abuse her.

Susan Hoey-Lees filed suit in Sacramento Superior Court Thursday against the diocese and the Rev. Vincent Brady, accusing the priest and diocesan officials of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Hoey-Lees claims that the defendants "negligently and carelessly ... called her, by name, as a liar and someone who falsely claimed to be a victim of clergy sexual abuse."

Diocesan officials say they are surprised by the lawsuit.

"We will defend it appropriately," said the Rev. James Murphy, spokesman for the diocese. He declined to comment further.

In 1999, Hoey-Lees accused Brady of sexually abusing her while he was serving as pastor of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in Vallejo in the mid-1970s. The case was settled out of court and Hoey-Lees received a confidential settlement - which she later revealed was for $350,000 - from the Sacramento diocese.

Last year, at the height of the clergy sexual abuse scandals, Brady told his congregation that he had been accused of sexual misconduct. During Mass on March 24, 2002, Brady told parishioners that civil authorities had investigated the complaint and that no charges had been brought.

Brady also told the congregation that according to the policy of the Sacramento Diocese, he had been placed on leave for about a year and that "a confidential settlement had been arrived at." Diocesan officials praised Brady and called his statement "an act of courage."

Later, in response to a Bee story, Brady distributed a three-page letter to congregants detailing the accusations against him. During the Mass and in the letter, Brady denied the allegations.

Hoey-Lees, now 40 and living in Washington state, "was outraged," when she heard about Brady's denial, according to her attorney.

"They knew her case was credible and had merit or they wouldn't have paid her $350,000," said Joseph George, a Sacramento attorney representing Hoey-Lees.

In her suit, Hoey-Lees says statements made by the priest during the Mass last year caused her to suffer "humiliation ... shame and emotional and physical distress.'

In June, a second allegation against Brady surfaced. At that time, Brady was suspended from his priestly duties while an investigation was conducted. St. Joseph parishioners supported their priest, who served in the diocese for more than 35 years.

In December, Brady wrote another letter to parishioners announcing his resignation.


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