5 Lawsuits Filed against Roman Catholic Diocese of S.D.

By Greg Moran
San Diego Union-Tribune
December 12, 2003

A San Diego man filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego yesterday, alleging he was physically and sexually abused when he was a toddler in the early 1940s at an orphanage and school run by the church.

The suit was one of five filed against the diocese by attorneys Irwin Zalkin and Michael Zimmer in one day and showed that the pace of litigation against the diocese is quickening as a year-end deadline for filing such suits approaches.

The diocese, which had not been served with the lawsuits yesterday, could not comment on them.

A state law that went into effect in January, allowing civil claims alleging sexual abuse by clergy years ago to go forward, expires Dec. 31. Zalkin said by the end of the year, more than 100 suits could be filed alleging physical and sexual abuse by priests and nuns over the past decades.

About 40 suits have been filed with the court so far, he said.

Yesterday's flurry of suits included two others alleging abuse at Nazareth House, a former school and orphanage run by an order of nuns near the San Diego Mission.

Nazareth House has been named in two abuse suits filed this year.

One of the alleged victims was Robert J. Baumer, a 62-year-old lawyer who said he lived at the Nazareth House orphanage in 1942 and 1943, when he was 2 to 3 years old.

Despite the passage of time and his young age when the alleged incidents occurred, Baumer said he has distinct memories of being sexually abused by nuns there. He said he also remembers being locked in a closet by the nuns as a form of punishment and being molested as he lay in bed.

"I had these memories my whole life," he said, "I did not understand they were a result of how I was treated by the nuns."

He said he only made the connection in the past couple of months.

Plaintiffs bringing civil suits can request courts to keep their identities hidden, filing under fictitious names such as "Jane Doe." In cases involving allegations of sexual abuse, such requests are routinely granted, Zalkin said.

Baumer, who practices family law, said he eschewed anonymity to encourage others who might be in a similar situation to come forward.

Two other suits filed yesterday also allege abuse by nuns at Nazareth House. One was filed on behalf of a now 45-year-old San Diego man and a second by a now 68-year-old San Diego woman.

The fourth suit was brought by a now 49-year-old man who claims he was sexually abused by Monsignor Donald Doxie from 1969 to 1972. Doxie was the rector at St. Brigid's Church in Pacific Beach at the time.

Rod Valdivia, a spokesman for the diocese, said Doxie died in 1976. He said the church had no previous allegations of abuse against Doxie.

Zalkin also filed a fifth suit for a now 59-year-old San Diego woman who alleged abuse by Rev. Franz Robier in 1957 and 1958. The woman was an 11-year-old in the choir at Holy Spirit Church in San Diego and claims Robier molested her in the choir loft repeatedly.

Robier, who is deceased, has been named in several other San Diego suits, including one filed by two women Wednesday.


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