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Man Files Lawsuit Against Stockton Catholic Dioceses, Archbishop Mahony

Feb 7, 2003 | AP A man who says he was molested by a now deceased priest is suing the Catholic Diocese of Stockton and its former leader, Cardinal Roger Mahony, accusing Mahony of violating federal anti-racketeering laws by allegedly covering up the assault.

The victim, identified in court papers only as Joe Doe, accuses the Rev. Ferdinand Villalobos of sexually assaulting him between 1980 and 1983 while Villalobos was at St. Mary of the Assumption Church. Stockton church officials said Villalobos died in the mid-1980s.

Mahony served as bishop of the Stockton diocese for five years before he was promoted to archbishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1985. He was named a cardinal in 1991.

"This has to do with a repressed-memory sort of thing," said attorney Gaspar Garcia II, who represents the man who is now in his mid- to late 30s.

"He became a friend, apprentice or whatever of the perpetrator, who built his trust, lured him in and did these things which caused serious harm to his psyche," Garcia said of his client.

A Stockton diocese spokeswoman, Sister Barbara Thiella, said Friday church leaders had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment. Los Angeles archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg also declined comment, saying church officials there had not seen the action either.

Garcia said the lawsuit lists several other clergy sex-abuse cases to show former Stockton church leaders had a common practice of concealing sexual criminal acts.

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 31 in San Joaquin County Superior Court, is one of three to be brought against the Stockton diocese in recent days.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday by a 38-year-old woman accuses church leaders of covering up allegations a priest molested her nearly 30 years ago. Nancy Sloan of Fairfield says she was molested by Oliver O'Grady during a summer youth church camp in 1976 when she was 11.

In 1999, the diocese agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by two brothers who claimed they were molested by O'Grady, who spent seven years in prison after pleading guilty to molestation charges. He was deported to his native Ireland in 2000.

A lawsuit filed Jan. 30 alleges a 43-year-old man listed as John Doe was sexually abused by a priest while attending St. Anne's School in 1969-1970. The lawsuit also accuses the defendants of knowing about the assaults and failing to stop them.

The suits were brought under a new state law that suspends the statute of limitations on actions charging sex abuse. Previously, victims had until their 26th birthdays or three years after discovering their emotional problems were linked to molestation. The new law lifts those restrictions until the end of this year.

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