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3 People To File Suits Against Local Diocese

New Law Eliminates Time Limits, Allows Old Cases Involving Priests

Jan 16, 2003 | Toledo Blade

Attorneys representing clients who have accused a Concord priest of abusing them when they were children said they intend to file three more lawsuits today against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland.

The team also intends to ask Allen Vigneron, the diocese's newly appointed bishop, to release all diocesan records on pedophile priests. In a letter they intend to deliver today to Vigneron, they will urge him to cooperate fully with police, said Hayward Attorney Rick Simons.

Simons said lawsuits will be filed on behalf of three people who say they were abused in the 1970s by Father Arturo Riberio at All Saints Catholic Church in Concord.

Two of the plaintiffs now live out of state, Simons said. The other, who is male, lives in Walnut Creek. "He was going to go public, but now he has second thoughts," Simons said.

The cases will be filed under a new law that took effect on New Year's Day. It eliminates time limits and allows molestation victims of many years ago to have their day in court.

Chancellor Barbara Flannery, who heads the diocese's reconciliation program for victims of abuse by priests, could not be reached Wednesday.

However, she has pointed out previously that she personally and the diocese itself have sincerely apologized to victims. The diocese, which has a half million members in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, has been operating a pioneering reconciliation program for several years.

Besides Simons, attorneys include David E. Drivon of Stockton and Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minn. Drivon obtained the first damage award against the Catholic church in California in 1998.

Anderson has filed more than 400 lawsuits charging molestation by Catholic priests.

The attorneys intend to read statements from their clients and deliver the letter to Vigneron this morning.

The diocese faces several other lawsuits, including those filed Jan. 3 by Simons and Drivon charging defrocked priest Steven Kiesle with molesting a Bay Area man.

while Kiesle was a parish pastor at St. Joseph's in Pinole.

The diocese faces two other lawsuits, in Fremont and Hayward, involving current priest Robert Freitas and George Francis, a priest who has been dead for some time.

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