http://www.insidevc.com/vcs/ox/article/0,1375,VCS_238_1846577,00.html

DA's Office files felony charges against priest
By Michelle L. Klampe, mklampe@insidevc.com
March 28, 2003

A priest accused of molesting altar boys at an Oxnard church between 1979 and 1986 now faces felony charges after Ventura County prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against him Thursday.

Fidencio Simon Silva, 53, is accused of 25 counts of molestation involving eight victims, ages 11 to 15, while he was associate pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Oxnard. If convicted, he faces up to 50 years in prison.

The charges against Silva, who might not be living in the United States, are believed to be the first criminal charges filed by the Ventura County District Attorney's Office against a priest since the clergy abuse scandal erupted more than a year ago. In all, the District Attorney's Office is investigating cases involving at least four priests and about 20 victims.

Manuel Vega, an Oxnard police officer whose formal allegations against Silva last April launched the criminal investigation, said he was stunned by the news of the charges.

"I was blown away. I was speechless," Vega said. "It's a good day to know that we, as victims, have been validated."

Vega's complaint to Oxnard police triggered a special statute of limitations that gave prosecutors one year to file criminal charges under a 1994 law that erases the regular time limit when the victim of a serious crime is younger than 18 at the time of the alleged offense.

"Thank God my case finally got filed today," he said.

Vega was in Sacramento earlier this week lobbying for a bill to extend the one-year limit and give investigators more time to seek search warrants and subpoenas before filing charges.

He also lobbied for a new state law, in effect since January, that lifts the statute of limitations for civil suits for one year. Vega is a plaintiff in a class-action civil case against the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

"I hope and pray that it will help others," Vega said. "I think it's important. I think it's really important. There have been all of these really tremendous crimes against children and (Catholic Church leaders) had knowledge of it and allowed it to persist for decades."

The District Attorney's Office is now seeking an arrest warrant for Silva, who may be living in Mexico or Italy, said Deputy District Attorney Patrice Koenig.

Silva was transferred from Oxnard to a church in Mexico in 1986. He was seen in Jesus Maria, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, a few months ago, when he was interviewed about the abuse allegations for a CBS news program, Koenig said. He is no longer in that location, she said.

"We'll be working with law enforcement to locate him and bring him to justice," she said.


http://www.tribune-democrat.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=7523794&BRD=2332&PAG=461&dept_id=484742&rfi=6

Diocese fighting lawsuits




By SUSAN EVANS, TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT NORTHERN CAMBRIA BUREAU March 28, 2003




ALTOONA – Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese should be protected from lawsuits and potentially embarrassing questions about sex abuse by priests dating to the 1970s, the diocese says.
The diocese should be protected from certain civil suits because they violate separation of church and state and therefore should be dismissed, diocese attorneys argue in response to a Blair County lawsuit.
“The right to practice one’s belief and worship as one chooses is so deep a root of our constitutional culture that a court, even one with the best of intentions, can be no more than a clumsy intruder” in such cases, church attorneys said in a motion asking that the lawsuit be dismissed.
In the lawsuit filed last month, Brian Gergely, 33, of Ebensburg, Kevin Hoover, 31, of Pittsburgh, and a 39-year-old man not identified said then-Monsignor Francis McCaa fondled them through their clothes while they were altar boys at Holy Name Church in Ebensburg between 1975 and 1985.
The men are suing the diocese and Bishop Joseph Adamec, who took office in 1987, and his predecessor, Bishop James Hogan, who headed the diocese when the alleged abuse took place.
But the attorney who filed the lawsuits last month said the diocese is not above the law, and neither is any church or church employee.
“The laws of Pennsylvania apply to all,” said Altoona attorney Richard Serbin in a telephone interview from his office.
“I’m not surprised that the diocese has filed preliminary objections attempting to delay proceedings,” Serbin said.
“I’m reviewing their arguments and will file a response.”
Serbin has filed two lawsuits against the diocese on behalf of men who said that as altar boys they were abused by their parish priests, now-defrocked the Rev. Francis Luddy and McCaa, now retired.
As part of the lawsuit process, Serbin has asked a list of questions about how the diocese has handled sex complaints during the past four decades.
The diocese wants the county court to block the questions while it considers whether to dismiss the lawsuits.
That would protect the diocese from “unreasonable annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, burden or expense,” say court papers filed by the diocese.
The lawsuits are based on alleged abuse in the 1970s and 1980s, and the diocese argues the incidents are too old to warrant lawsuits.
Church attorneys said Serbin is trying to get around a two-year statute of limitations by turning the case into a “clergy malpractice” action that takes issue with how the diocese has disciplined its priests.
But Serbin argues that the diocese still may be sued on the grounds that church officials mishandled and misrepresented how they dealt with abuse allegations against McCaa and other diocesan priests until at least last year. He said suits still may be filed against the diocese for alleged efforts to conceal abuse.
The diocese argues in court papers that the courts cannot interfere with the relationship between bishops and priests, and to do so would violate the separation of church and state.
Two separate lawsuits have been filed by five men, with three saying they were abused by McCaa and two by Luddy.
In the 1980s, the diocese paid undisclosed financial damages and signed a secrecy agreement in the McCaa case.
McCaa’s whereabouts could not be immediately determined yesterday.
The Luddy case resulted in a 1994 trial, which the diocese lost, and the victim was paid $1.2 million in compensatory damages and interest two years ago.
Still pending is an appeal before state Supreme Court on whether the diocese will have to pay $1 million in punitive damages.
Church attorneys cited cases in Wisconsin and Maine in arguing that courts can not second-guess how bishops hire, fire, assign or discipline priests.
In 1995, Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down a lawsuit against the Milwaukee Archdiocese in which a woman said a priest at her high school used his position to coerce her into a sexual relationship in the early 1960s. The woman said the archdiocese was negligent in its hiring or training of the priest.
U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision.
In 1997, Maine Supreme Court ruled 4-2 that the state’s Roman Catholic bishop was immune from being sued for allegedly negligent supervision of a priest who had an affair with a female parishioner he was counseling.
The Maine court said enforcing a secular duty of employee supervision on the church would violate First Amendment religious freedoms.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

©Tribune Democrat 2003


http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=7520288&BRD=2212&PAG=461&dept_id=465812&rfi=6

Church: Abuse suit against diocese violates church-state separation




March 27, 2003




A Roman Catholic diocese sued for allegedly failing to properly respond to accusations that a priest molested three boys more than 17 years ago says the lawsuit violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
Attorneys for the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, based about 85 miles east of Pittsburgh, say courts have consistently ruled that government can't regulate how the church deals with clergy accused of misconduct.


"The right to practice one's belief and worship as one chooses is so deep a root of our constitutional culture that a court, even one with the best of intentions, can be no more than a clumsy intruder" in such cases, church attorneys said in a motion filed Monday asking that the lawsuit be dismissed.


In the lawsuit filed last month, Brian Gergely, 33, of Ebensburg, Kevin Hoover, 31, of Pittsburgh, and a 39-year-old man not identified said then-Monsignor Francis McCaa fondled them through their clothes while they were altar boys at Holy Name Church in Ebensburg between 1975 and 1985.


The men said the sexual abuse took place in the church's sacristy, where sacred vestments and vessels are kept. Gergely said McCaa fondled him in a confessional as he sat on the priest's lap.


The men are suing the diocese and Bishop Joseph Adamec, who took office in 1987, and his predecessor, Bishop James Hogan, who headed the diocese when the alleged abuse took place.


Their attorney, Richard Serbin, has said church officials were wrong in not contacting authorities about McCaa, who resigned in 1985 and has since been barred from public ministry.


The men didn't sue McCaa because Pennsylvania has a two-year statute of limitations on abuse allegations. McCaa's whereabouts could not be immediately determined Thursday.


Serbin argues, however, that the diocese can still be sued on the grounds that church officials mishandled and misrepresented how they dealt with abuse allegations against McCaa and other diocesan priests until at least last year.


When he announced the lawsuit last month, Serbin said his clients began to blame the diocese only after Adamec said in March 2002 that he had suspended priests accused of pedophilia from the ministry more than a decade ago.


The diocese has said it did what was proper under laws and church guidelines in effect at the time the allegations surfaced.


In their response to the suit this week, church attorneys said Serbin is trying to get around the two-year statute of limitations by turning the case into a "clergy malpractice" action that takes issue with how the diocese has disciplined its priests.


The church attorneys cited cases in Wisconsin and Maine in arguing that courts can not second-guess how bishops hire, fire, assign or discipline priests.


In 1995, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down a lawsuit against the Milwaukee Archdiocese in which a woman said a priest at her high school used his position to coerce her into a sexual relationship in the early 1960s. The woman said the archdiocese was negligent in its hiring or training of the priest.


The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision.


In 1997, the Maine Supreme Court ruled 4-2 that the state's Roman Catholic bishop was immune from being sued for allegedly negligent supervision of a priest who had an affair with a female parishioner he was counseling. The Maine court said enforcing a secular duty of employee supervision on the church would violate First Amendment religious freedoms.


The attorneys for the Altoona diocese said such lawsuits can have "a chilling or coercive effect upon ... a church's constitutionally guaranteed liberty to determine the means best suited to accomplish its divine mission."


But Serbin said some courts have ruled that those constitutional protections don't matter when sex abuse of children is at issue.


"Courts have ruled that when you're dealing with the subject of sexual molestation of children, that a priest or bishop cannot hide behind their religion to break the laws of society," Serbin said. "This is a crime when you molest children, and that has nothing to do with religion."


___


On the Net:


Altoona-Johnstown Diocese: http://www.diocesealtjtn.org


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests: http://www.survivorsnetwork.org


©NEPA News 2003

http://www.heraldtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20030327&Category=APN&ArtNo=303271089&Ref=AR

Bill inspired by priest abuse would end limit on prosecuting rape

By BRENDAN FARRINGTON
Associated Press Writer


A bill inspired by reports of priests abusing children would eliminate a four-year time limit in prosecuting rapes.

The bill (HB 747) approved Thursday by the House Public Safety & Crime Prevention Committee would allow prosecution of rapists even if their victims wait decades to report the crime. In most current cases, rapes cannot be prosecuted if victims wait more than four years to come forward.

"There's been a lot of stuff in the news over the summer and last spring regarding Catholic priests and this is pretty much to address that," said Rep. Jim Kallinger. He said many victims have "been initimidated" from reporting "what had happened many years ago."

Under state law, there is no time limit on prosecuting sex crimes against victims under 12. Prosecutors can prosecute crimes against children older than 12 and younger than 18 until the victim's 22 birthday. They cannot prosecute sex crimes against adults four years after the assault.

"A lot of perpetrators have been using the statute of limitations to their advantage knowing that 'Heck, if I commit this crime, and they don't report by the time they're 22, I'm off the hook' and the chance of them reporting it by the age of 22 were slim to none," said Kallinger, R-Winter Park.

He said the Florida Catholic Conference supports the bill, even knowing that it could mean criminal charges against priests.

Mike McCarron, executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference, said the dioceses were "very comfortable with the legislation and have no concerns with it."

The committee voted 14-2 to support the bill after a long debate about whether it would allow people to file false crime reports.

Rep. John Seiler, who voted against the bill, said the purpose of the statute "is a weighing of the risks of unfair prosecution in an untimely manner against the rights of victims and the protection of society - we're trying to balance this. In here we are putting the system out of balance." He was joined in opposition by Rep. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville.

Seiler, D-Pompano Beach, wanted to add a provision removing the time limits to prosecute, but only if there was evidence to corroborate the victim's claim.

"We're opening the door too far and I think you're going to allow a lot of false accusations to surface," he said.

Committee members rejected the amendment, saying that many times there are no witnesses to sex crimes and evidence such as DNA may not be available years later.

"These people are shellshocked. These people do not many times want to prosecute because they feel a sense of shame, they feel a sense that they have been violated and the one thing they want to do is crawl into a little hole and die," said Rep. Juan-Carlos Planas, R-Miami, a former prosecutor.

While Kallinger's bill focuses on criminal prosecution, at least 12 states have responded to the crisis of sexual abuse by priests by drafting legislation that would extend the statute of limitation on civil lawsuits in such cases.

Randy Means, director of investigations and administration for the Orlando state attorney's office, said the proposal would also help in cases where family members and youth activity leaders such as Boy Scout leaders "slowly coerce the victim into having sex."

Terri Poore, a lobbyist with the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, said her organization often receives calls from people who want to report a rape years after the fact, many of whom come forward after receiving therapy.

"We frequently have phone calls where we tell people that we believe they should be able to take it forward but the statute has run and they're simply not going to be able to do that," Poore said. "For many victims that's really hard news to take."


Last modified: March 27. 2003 6:44PM


http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/5500240.htm

Posted on Fri, Mar. 28, 2003

Sex-crime victims may get assist
BY LESLEY CLARK
lclark@herald.com

TALLAHASSEE - Prompted by scandals involving long-repressed tales of molestation of youngsters by Catholic priests, lawmakers are pushing legislation to give child victims unlimited time to report serious sex crimes.

The measure, approved Thursday by the House Public Safety & Crime Prevention Committee, allows prosecutors to file charges for first-degree felony sex crimes even if victims wait decades to report the crime. Currently, serious sexual crimes against children under 12 carry no statute of limitations. But minors who are over 12 when they are molested have until age 22 to report it.

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar suggested the measure after police reported having trouble prosecuting people who had preyed on children and coerced them into silence.

''There's been a lot of stuff in the news over the summer and last spring regarding Catholic priests and this is pretty much to address that,'' said Rep. Jim Kallinger, a Winter Park Republican who is working with Lamar. Kallinger noted that child victims are often too intimidated to report sexual abuse.

''We're finding that it takes time to come to terms with it,'' he said.

The Florida Catholic Conference, which represents the state's seven dioceses on government issues, is supporting the bill, even though it could lead to criminal charges against priests.

Mike McCarron, executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference, said the state's dioceses are ``very comfortable with the legislation and have no concerns with it.''

In many clergy sexual-abuse cases, the defense strategy has been to try to get the suits quickly dismissed on a technicality by invoking the statute-of-limitations defense.

The House measure advanced Thursday and will next go before the full House. A companion measure has cleared a Senate committee and will be discussed next week.

Broward Democratic Rep. Jack Seiler, who is Catholic, tried to soften the legislation, suggesting that it could lead to an increase in false allegations against priests and be used as a weapon in domestic disputes. He proposed extending the statute of limitations in such crimes only if the victim had some ''independent evidence'' of abuse, such as DNA or a witness statement.

''You could destroy someone's career with a false accusation under this bill,'' Seiler said, noting that the statute of limitations protects people from unfair prosecution. He noted that a lawsuit has been filed against a Broward priest who died in 1996.

''You're putting the system out of balance,'' Seiler said. ``We're opening the door too far and I think you're going to allow a lot of false accusations to surface.''

But Kallinger said the issue is sexual abuse, not false reporting.

And Rep. Juan-Carlos Planas, a Miami Republican and former prosecutor, noted that prosecutors would still need to make their cases to a jury.

Planas said it can take some victims years to tell anyone.

''These people are shellshocked,'' he said. ``They feel a sense that they have been violated and the one thing they want to do is crawl into a little hole and die.''

This report was supplemented with information from Herald wire services.



Peace

Orodo

_________________________
It is better to be Dragon Master than Dragon Slayer. Some Dragons are meant to be mastered, others meant to be slain. Odin, Great Spirit, God, grant me the wisdom to know the difference. "May the Valar guide and bless you on your path under the sky"