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L.A. Archdiocese Sued

Franciscan order trying to protect itself in priest sexual-abuse suit

Apr 6, 2003 | AP

An order of Franciscan friars has sued the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, demanding it pay any possible award in an ongoing lawsuit that claims a priest from the order molested an altar boy three decades ago.

The move is similar to last week's legal filing by the Diocese of San Bernardino against the Archdiocese of Boston in another abuse lawsuit.

The actions "are indicative of the fact that the defendants clearly recognize the potential for huge liability and are going to begin to point the finger at one another," said John Manly, an attorney for the man who is suing the Franciscan order.

In the past, dioceses and religious orders have tried to blame each other in depositions for the treatment of suspected pedophile priests, said Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk who works for Manly and others as an expert on sexual abuse within the church.

However, the fear of multimillion-dollar awards is prompting them to go further and actually sue.

"The real issue is the money," Sipe told the Los Angeles Times in a story published Saturday. "They're trying to cut their losses."

The suit against the Franciscans, filed last June, claims that former Franciscan Bertrand W. Horvath abused the altar boy in 1972 at St. Killian Church in Mission Viejo. Horvath had been assigned by the Franciscan order to work at the church under the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The Orange County Supe-rior Court suit alleges that church officials moved Horvath from "parish to parish, from diocese to diocese, from state to state, so as to make detection harder and to communicate the false impression that corrective action had been taken."

The Indiana-based Province of Our Lady of Consolation Conventual Franciscan Friars filed its cross-complaint in February, arguing that it was not responsible for the actions of a friar who was on loan to another Catholic organization. It wants a judge to order the archdiocese to reimburse the order for any possible damages assessed in the lawsuit.

Calls seeking comment from the order and from the archdiocese were not immediately returned Saturday. Horvath, who retired in 2001 from a Texas diocese and moved to Ohio, could not immediately be reached.

On Tuesday, the Diocese of San Bernardino filed a similar cross-complaint against the Archdiocese of Boston. It was believed to be the first time that one U.S. diocese has sued another.

The cross-complaint came in response to a suit filed in January against the San Bernardino Diocese by a man who claims former Rev. Paul Shanley had sex with him when he a 17-year-old boy in San Bernardino in 1990 and that the priest persuaded the teenager to have sex with other men.

In the cross-complaint, the Diocese of San Bernardino contends that it is not responsible for Shanley's alleged actions and urges a judge to require the Boston archdiocese to pay any possible judgment against it.

San Bernardino church officials say they were assured that Shanley was in good standing when he transferred from Boston in 1990. However, Boston archdiocese officials had received allegations about Shanley dating to the 1960s and knew about public statements he had made advocating sex between men and boys, the suit states.

Shanley was charged in May with raping four boys at a Newton, Mass., church from 1979 to 1989. He has pleaded innocent and is free on bail awaiting trial.

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