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Former Altar Boy Sues East Bay Priest

Apr 3, 2003 | CONTRA COSTA TIMES A former Contra Costa County man who said he suffered years of "severe" sexual abuse at the hands of a longtime East Bay Catholic priest filed a lawsuit Wednesday, saying he was left with eternal emotional scars.

Michael Martell, 43, said in a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court that the Rev. Donald Eugene Broderson, 60, of Richmond molested him a dozen times between 1973 and 1974. Martell was an altar boy at Concord's Church of the Most Precious Blood, now St. Francis of Assisi, when the abuse began, he said.

"It started slowly and progressed in its severity," Martell said of the abuse. "I felt ashamed. I was scared."

Broderson was a trusted family friend who regularly dined at his parents' home, Martell said. On one such occasion, he said, Broderson molested him in his bedroom. At other times, Martell suffered abuse on a road trip and inside a bedroom at the church rectory, he said.

Martell said for years he remained silent about what had happened, withdrawing from his family, who he said knew nothing of his secret for years. He approached the Catholic Diocese of Oakland nearly a year ago, but said nothing was done.

Martell said he also took his story to Concord police in May 2001, but was told they did not have the resources to pursue the allegations.

"The amount of shame, the amount of hurt, what he took away from me when I was a young boy is unexplainable," Martell said.

Calls to Sister Barbara Flannery, chancellor of the Oakland Diocese, and the Concord police detective who handled the matter were not returned.

Broderson also did not return a phone call.

Ordained in 1968, Broderson served at St. Raymond in Dublin from 1980 to 1981, Transfiguration Church in Castro Valley from 1984 to 1987, and in Fremont at St. Paula from 1969 to 1971 and St. Leonard's from 1976 to 1979. He also served in 1972 at St. Philip Neri in Alameda, and St. Joachim in Hayward in 1973.

Lawyers for Martell are seeking medical and general damages. Additionally, they also called on the diocese to remove Broderson from church activities and notify parishioners that he is a danger to children.

"This case is of particular concern to us," said Hayward lawyer Richard Simons, who is handling about 30 other Bay Area sexual abuse lawsuits against Catholic priests.

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