Alleged Abuser Now Gone

By Victoria Manley
Monterey County Herald
February 18, 2003

A former priest who left the Roman Catholic Church in 1994 after being accused of molesting a teenage boy in Southern California apparently has been working in Salinas for the past two years as an advocate for the homeless.

Lynn Caffoe had been working at a United States Mission office in Salinas until officials there asked him to leave two weeks ago after learning of his history. Since then, his whereabouts have been unclear.

"We had no idea," said a man at United States Mission who would give only his first name, Allen. He described Caffoe as an "ordinary guy."

"He got along with everybody, and he did his job well."

Allen said Caffoe did "administrative stuff, regular paperwork," for the organization, which operates out of a house on Soto Place, two blocks from Santa Rita Elementary School.

Allen said Caffoe lived at the Soto Place house but would leave every Sunday for church and not return until Monday.

"We didn't know what he did," he said.

United States Mission is a nondenominational, Christian, nonprofit organization that takes in homeless people on a temporary basis. In exchange, the residents are asked to solicit donations door-to-door to support the organization.

There are several United States Mission houses throughout the country, organization officials say, primarily in the western United States.

Allen said the organization serves only homeless adults.

"There is no one here under 18," he said.

Neighbors said Monday that they didn't recognize a photo of Caffoe, but clerks at a nearby Quik Stop Market and 7-Eleven store said he often visited their stores.

Caffoe's past came to light when a reporter for a San Jose television station approached Caffoe and United States Mission representatives two weeks ago.

In a news report broadcast Friday, Caffoe admitted he was the former priest, identified in Southern California news reports, who had been accused of molesting a young boy. The television account, aired on KNTV-11, said Caffoe promised to turn himself in to police, though it does not appear he faces any criminal charges.

Caffoe's past hasn't been well-documented. He was identified in an August article in the Los Angeles Times as one of several ex-clergy members who have evaded answering reports of sexual misconduct, as well as in a November article in USA Today about Catholic priests who have been accused of sexually abusing minors.

According to the Los Angeles Times and others, Caffoe left the Diocese of Los Angeles in 1994 after a high school student made an allegation of molestation at St. James Church in Redondo Beach to a counselor at Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance.

Caffoe also had been sent to therapy at a Catholic facility in Maryland after being accused of molestation in 1991, the reports said.

Just last week, Los Angeles attorney Raymond P. Boucher filed a lawsuit against Caffoe on behalf of a young man who said he was molested by Caffoe in the 1990s.

Boucher, who has represented several dozen other alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests, said Monday that he has been looking for Caffoe for several months.

"I wasn't able to track him down until recently," Boucher said Monday. He said Huntington Beach police received a complaint about Caffoe in 1994 but that no charges were filed.

Caffoe became acquainted with United States Mission five years ago when he was homeless and staying in a San Diego house, said Brian Jones, a spokesman for United States Mission in Portland, Ore.

Before Caffoe moved to Salinas, he had lived in United States Mission homes in San Diego, Portland and Modesto.

"This all came as a big surprise to us," Jones said. After the television reporter met with Caffoe two weeks ago, he "just took off and disappeared. We're all very saddened by it."

Salinas police said they haven't heard of Caffoe. Boucher said he hopes someone steps forward and reports his whereabouts.

Victoria Manley can be reached at 646-4478,


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