San Diego Documents, October 24, 2010

On October 22, 2010, Judge William C. Pate ordered the release of documents relating to the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Diocese of San Diego. This document release was a nonmonetary provision of the San Diego settlement, as ordered on August 29, 2008 by Judge Emilie Elias, of the Los Angeles Superior Court.

On this page, we present all the documents released by Judge Pate’s order, and during this week, we will post the crucial documents individually for easier download. Some of these documents are also available from the website of the Zalkin Law Firm, which was our source for many of the files. The text of Judge Pate’s order and the files for ten of the priests were provided by attorney Anthony DeMarco.

Some of the files linked on this page are very large. We have posted them as they were released, so that our readers could have immediate access to this important archive – the largest collection of abuse-related documents ever obtained from a California diocese. In the coming days, we will make the documents easier to access by cutting them into smaller PDFs and offering selected documents. Please refresh this page often in your browser to view the new material.

These documents are important for many reasons. They are the first public evidence of allegations of misconduct against nine priests: Brennan, Clarkin, Creaton, Jost, Kearney, MacCourt, O’Connor, O’Donohoe, and Waltos. They also provide crucial evidence that the sexual abuse crisis is an international phenomenon, and they offer a remarkably detailed history of mismanagement and concealment by the San Diego diocese’s bishops and managers.

San Diego Diocese releases priests’ records in sex abuse cases –,0,723032.story

Lawyers for 144 victims fought since 2007 for personnel files, correspondence and other documents to be made public. They show a familiar pattern of nondisclosure, priest transfers and fear of bad publicity.

Reporting from San Diego and Los Angeles —

After a three-year legal fight, documents were released Sunday detailing the years of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the San Diego Diocese that led to a $198.1-million settlement with 144 victims in September 2007.

The documents involved 48 priests, most of whose names the diocese disclosed in March 2007. But few details had been released other than to say “credible allegations” had been made against them. None of the 48 is still in the diocese and all but a half-dozen are dead.

Although the diocese quickly paid the settlement, its lawyers fought in court to limit disclosure of the personnel records, citing various personal and medical-record privacy laws.

Disclosure has become an issue in other dioceses where sexual allegations were made and settlements reached. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which reached a $660-million settlement in 2007, has yet to release the records sought by victims’ attorneys.

In the San Diego case, a retired Superior Court judge Friday ordered that thousands of pages of documents be made public. Most are routine records of monthly reports and various correspondence; only a fraction show allegations or the actions of higher-ups in the church.

But the pages that do involve allegations show a pattern that has become common to clerical sexual abuse cases in other dioceses: Victims and their families were often ignored or called liars; diocese officials transferred priests when allegations were made but never contacted the police; and the San Diego Diocese found parishes for priests being transferred from elsewhere in the country to avoid allegations.

One case is that of Robert Nikliborc, a priest who served time in federal prison for failing to file income taxes. He had been accused of living a double life as a wealthy married man in Palm Springs and was later accused of molesting several youths under his care at a Banning school for boys.

In 1976 then-Bishop Leo T. Maher wrote to the pope’s delegate in Washington, D.C., saying of Nikliborc that it “would seem he has a dual personality, has charm and a most pleasing personality, and can easily win people over to his views. But if one does not agree, he is really vicious, very vindictive. … I can say in all honesty he is a liar and a very dishonest person. … I do not believe he should be allowed to function as a priest.”

Jean Jadot, the Holy See’s apostolic delegate to the U.S., responded: “I realize that you will have to do something. My only suggestion is that you try and avoid as much harmful publicity for the church as possible.”

Nikliborc continued serving at Saint Anne Catholic Church in San Diego and more than two decades later, when the priest himself asked to retire, his superiors asked him to stay on.

Even when the diocese took action against a priest, it took years to follow through.

In 2002, Bishop Robert Brom sent a letter to the Rev. John Keith, whom the diocese had sent to psychiatric treatment a decade earlier. The letter noted that since 1993 several adults had alleged that Keith had molested them as children. Brom informed Keith that he could no longer celebrate Mass or present himself as a priest. But the diocese continued to let him live in a facility for retired priests and helped pay his bills.

The letter from Brom concludes: “I encourage you to continue to lead a life of prayer and penance as reparation for your past misconduct.”

At an afternoon news conference, David Clohessy, a national leader of SNAP — Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests — called disclosure of the San Diego records “tremendously healing and validating” for victims.

“This hard-won victory over secretive Catholic officials helps protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded,” Clohessy said….

Lawyers Anthony DeMarco and Irwin Zalkin, who had pressed for disclosure of the documents, said at a San Diego news conference Sunday that there are other documents, involving both the 48 priests and perhaps another half-dozen priests, that have yet to be made public. The diocese, the lawyers said, is continuing to insist in court that those records are covered by privacy laws.

The San Diego Diocese agreed to the September 2007 settlement after a bankruptcy judge doubted assertions by diocese lawyers that paying claims to victims could cripple the diocese’s pastoral and social service missions.

The diocese had filed for protection in Bankruptcy Court on the eve of the first abuse case going to trial. The bankruptcy filing put the court cases on hold.

But the bankruptcy judge proved unsympathetic to the diocese’s arguments. Among other things, the judge said the diocese’s financial recordkeeping was byzantine and its settlement offers far below what other dioceses were making.

The settlement called for the diocese to pay $77 million and its insurance carrier to pay $75 million to settle 111 cases. Religious orders would pay $30 million for 22 cases. The Diocese of San Bernardino, once part of the San Diego Diocese, would pay $15 million for 11 cases.

Decades of priest-abuse claims revealed in thousands of newly unsealed Calif. church records –,0,3410555.story

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Newly released documents show the Diocese of San Diego long knew about abusive priests, some of whom were shuffled from parish to parish despite credible complaints against them.

Attorneys for 144 people claiming sex abuse made the papers public Sunday, after a retired San Diego Superior Court judge ruled last week that the previously sealed documents could be released.

The nearly 10,000 pages of records were from the personnel files of 48 priests who were either credibly accused or convicted of sexual abuse, or were named in a civil lawsuit.

The documents detailed one decades-old case in which a priest under police investigation was allowed to leave the U.S. after the diocese intervened.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit settled with the diocese in 2007 for nearly $200 million, but the agreement stipulated that an independent judge would review the sealed personnel records and determine what could be made public.

The files show some church leaders moved priests around or overseas despite credible complaints against them. Some of the moves occurred decades before any allegations became public.

“We encourage all Catholics, all members of the community, to look for these documents,” attorney Anthony DeMarco said at a news conference. “These documents demonstrate years and years and decades of concerted action that has allowed this community’s children to be victimized, and it is not until the community looks at these documents that this cycle is ever going to be ended.”

In a statement Monday, the diocese said it had voluntarily complied with all aspects of the lawsuit settlement reached in 2007.

“It is the ongoing hope of the diocese that all victims will continue on the path toward healing and reconciliation,” the statement said.

The files were released after a three-year legal battle.

At least one of the priests, Gustavo Benson, was still in active ministry in the Diocese of Ensenada in Mexico. The diocese’s website lists Benson as the current treasurer.

Benson, now 64, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of molesting a 13-year-old boy in 1987 after striking a plea deal. He had been accused of molesting two teens at his home in Barstow and at his cabin in Forest Falls, as well as giving young boys beer and wine coolers.

Benson’s secretary Guadalupe Cochran said Monday the priest was on vacation for two weeks. She said she did not know if he had gone to the United States or was vacationing in Mexico.

Calls to the Archdiocese of Tijuana, which oversees Ensenada, were not immediately returned.

In a 2002 interview with The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Benson said he ministered to children there but had not done anything inappropriate.

In at least one instance, the newly released files included abuse allegations against the Rev. Luis Eugene de Francisco of Colombia, whose name had not previously surfaced in any lawsuit or criminal case.

Police investigated de Francisco for allegedly abusing children, but the diocese convinced authorities to drop the case if the priest would return immediately to his Colombian diocese and never return to the U.S.

“In early August 1963, father was placed under arrest by the civil police of the city of San Diego for violation of the State Penal Code,” then-Bishop Charles F. Buddy wrote the Colombian bishop in the Diocese of Cali. “At that time, arrangements were made between this chancery and the civil authorities of San Diego in which, if father left the United States with the promise never to return, the charges against father would be set aside by civil law.”

Buddy wrote that de Francisco had crossed the border at Tijuana, Mexico, and was “directed to return directly to the Diocese of Cali.”…….

Attorneys are still trying for the release of an additional 2,000 pages of documents.

It was the most pages of documentation released so far in a U.S. church case, said Terry McKiernan, founder of the website Bishop The website collects and publishes internal church papers that have been released as the result of litigation on clergy abuse nationwide.

“I think as we absorb this, it will shed a lot of light on these issues. It’s amazingly rich,” McKiernan said. “These documents are providing a window into the California experience that we haven’t had before.”

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