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Court May Combine Priest Sex Lawsuits

Jan 5, 2003 | AP

The state Supreme Court has been asked to combine lawsuits that claim Roman Catholic priests around the state sexually abused children.

John Manly, a Costa Mesa lawyer, said Friday that his office had filed a petition asking that a single judge hear what could amount to hundreds of cases.

The procedure has been used in the past to consolidate asbestos lawsuits and to combine nearly 4,000 breast implant cases.

A state law that took effect last week extends through 2003 the statute of limitations for alleged victims of child sexual abuse to sue.

Several suits accusing priests of sexual molestation were filed last week in Santa Clara, San Bernardino, and Alameda counties.

On Thursday, a San Diego man filed a suit that claims he was molested by a priest during a cross-country trip nearly three decades ago, when he was 14. He also alleged that he was abused in the rectory of a Lakeside church.

It was the second suit filed against retired Rev. Paul Gill.

Gill and a spokesman for the San Diego Roman Catholic diocese declined to comment Friday to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The suit filed Thursday in San Bernardino County involves allegations that the Rev. Paul Shanley had sex with a 17-year-old boy in 1990 and convinced him to have sex with other men.

The suit by a Big Bear Lake man also involves the Diocese of San Bernardino; the Archdiocese of Boston; Boston Cardinal Bernard F. Law; bishops Robert J. Banks and John B. McCormack and former San Bernardino Bishop Phillip F. Straling, the San Bernardino Sun reported Friday.

Shanley, who worked in the Boston archdiocese before coming to California, is now awaiting trial in Massachusetts on charges of child rape. The 71-year-old has pleaded innocent.

Banks and McCormack worked in the Boston archdiocese and Straling worked in San Bernardino's diocese.

McCormack now heads the Diocese of Manchester, N.H. Banks is bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis. Straling heads the Diocese of Reno, Nev.

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