Accused Priest Returns to Pulpit
Protesters Warn Parishioners about Father Carter, Who Faces Civil Sex-Abuse Lawsuit

By Tim Hay
San Mateo County Times (San Mateo, CA)
April 8, 2003

Father Daniel Carter returned to the pulpit of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on Sunday after being on administrative leave for eight months, though he still faces a lawsuit from a woman who says he molested her in the late 1970s.

About two dozen protesters -- many who say they have been sexually abused by Catholic priests -- stood in front of the church on Alameda de las Pulgas, telling parishioners on their way to Mass not to leave their children alone with Father Daniel, and taking heat from the priest's supporters.

"This guy is not safe around kids," said Terrie Light, a member of Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests, a Chicago-based advocacy group.

But many parishioners have rallied around Carter, who they say was wrongly accused.

"He's been through hell and agony over this," said Bill Duplisses, a former state assemblyman who has known Carter for more than 30 years. "He's a remarkable man, truly someone who was destined and called by God."

Duplessis, now a lobbyist in Sacramento, represented the County in the state Legislature from 1986 to 1988. He has attended Immaculate Heart of Mary since 1974, he said.

In a letter to Archbishop William J. Levada, he called Carter's reinstatement "blessed news."

An employee in the church rectory on Monday referred all questions to the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Officials at the archdiocese declined to comment.

Carter was sued last August 6 by a woman, now in her 30s, who said he touched her inappropriately when he was a teacher at San Francisco's Notre Dame des Victoires Parochial School.

According to court documents, the woman said she complained to church officials about Carter four months before filing the lawsuit, but received no response.

The archdiocese put Carter on leave two days after her suit was filed.

The lawsuit was withdrawn Jan. 27, but the woman's attorneys refiled it March 27.

"The diocese, for some reason, reinstated him, saying the case was dismissed," said Hayward attorney Rick Simons, who represents the woman. "They took it to mean he was cleared of the allegations."

Simons said the dismissal of the suit was a tactical move: It was withdrawn and refiled so it would fall within the one-year lifting of the statute oflimitations on old sex-abuse cases involving the clergy.

The one-year window for filing old cases was approved by American bishops during the height of the abuse scandals in the Boston Archdiocese.

Simons, who attended the small rally in Belmont, said he was not surprised church officials put Carter back in the pulpit.

"Once I got over my initial surprise at how widespread these incidents of molestation have been, and how unreceptive the diocese has been to many of the survivors, nothing surprises me," he said.

Protesters handed out leaflets titled "Protect Our Children" on Sunday, but got mixed results from parishioners.

"One woman driving away gave us the finger," Light said, "which I thought was odd for someone coming out of Mass."


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