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Catholic Leaders Testify Before Jury

Feb 22, 2003 | AP Four leaders of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles who have ties to the cardinal have been testifying before a grand jury regarding possible sexual abuse by 17 fellow priests.

Santa Barbara Bishop Thomas Curry, Monsignor Richard Loomis, Monsignor Timothy Dyer and Monsignor Craig Cox were the first clerics to be subpoenaed by a grand jury in Southern California, said lawyer J. Michael Hennigan.

The priests have testified before grand jurors since the beginning of the year. The four had each served as the vicar of the clergy at some point during the 17-year tenure of Cardinal Roger Mahony.

Details of the accusations were not available. Ventura County Senior Deputy District Attorney Maeve Fox declined to comment Friday.

Archdiocese officials have said that most of the known misconduct claims are based on allegations of acts before Mahony's arrival. Mahony has adopted a zero tolerance policy for abuse and created a background screening process for those entering the seminary.

Victims' rights groups claim church officials covered up allegations of abuse.

"Cardinal Mahony and other bishops have knowingly protected and harbored these molesters for years," said Mary Grant, spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Hennigan said he will oppose disclosure of church documents on the 17 priests suspected of abuse, arguing that they are subject to attorney-client privilege and to the patient-therapist privilege.

In Washington state, meanwhile, a 43-year-old man who alleged he was molested by a priest in the Seattle Archdiocese decades ago committed suicide this week, his family said.

Police in Kirkland, a Seattle suburb, found Jeff Alfieri with a gunshot wound to the head in his vehicle early Tuesday. At least two other people in Washington state who accused priests of past abuse have committed suicide in recent years.

In June, Alfieri told the Seattle Archdiocese that the Rev. Gerald Moffat had molested him in the early 1970s when Moffat was a priest assigned to Holy Family Church in Kirkland, archdiocese spokeswoman Jackie O'Ryan said.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Alfieri in November accuses Moffat of sexually molesting him during trips and church-related events when the boy was about 11 to 13 years old.

Moffat's phone number is not listed, and archdiocese spokeswoman Jackie O'Ryan said he was unavailable for comment.

At least 20 lawsuits representing more than 50 plaintiffs claiming they had been sexually abused by priests have been filed against the Seattle and Spokane dioceses in the past year and a half.

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