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Lawsuits Claim Abuse By Priests In San Bernardino County

Jun 3, 2003 | AP

Two former altar boys sued the Diocese of San Diego for failing to protect them from a priest who sexually assaulted them in a church rectory.

The two brothers, now 34 and 38, attended St. George School in Ontario between 1971 and 1982, the period they claim they were molested by former priest Edward Anthony Rodrigue.

Rodrigue, who is currently serving a prison term for molesting young boys, was defrocked by the church 10 years ago.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in San Bernardino County Superior Court, said officials with the Diocese of San Diego knew Rodrigue was attracted to young boys before he arrived at St. George in 1976, said attorney Timothy C. Hale, who represents the two brothers.

San Bernardino was part of the San Diego Diocese until 1978.

"Why on Earth they would assign this man to both a church and a school where there were children is beyond me," Hale said.

Rodrigo Valdivia, chancellor of the San Diego Diocese, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

Under a new state law aimed at discouraging damaging and frivolous lawsuits, defendants in such claims are not named until a judge orders a trial.

Rodrigue received probation and underwent psychiatric treatment in 1980 after pleading no contest in the sexual assault of an Ontario boy, according to the lawsuit.

He was removed from the priesthood in 1992 after allegations of sexual abuse arose at the Diocese of San Bernardino.

Rodridgue is serving 10 years at California State Prison in Mule Creek in the sexual assault of an 11-year-old developmentally disabled boy.

"He admitted to assaulting at least four to five boys a year for the 22 years he was a priest," Hale said. "He definitely had a history and a propensity. This guy is a true pedophile."

In another claim involving sexual abuse by priests, a woman has refiled a lawsuit that claims the San Bernardino Diocese failed to properly supervise the priest who she says molested her in 1990.

In her lawsuit, the woman, now 26, accuses Monsignor Patrick O'Keeffe of fondling her in 1990 when she was a 14-year-old student at St. Margaret Mary School in Chino.

In March, a judge dismissed the woman's claim that the diocese was negligent in hiring the priest, but said accusations that diocese of negligence failed to properly supervise him was fair game, said Katherine Freberg, the attorney who filed the case.

A spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino declined comment.

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