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Oakland Diocese Hit With Abuse Suit

Former Fremont priest accused of molesting plaintiff in 1970s while serving at Concord parish

Apr 3, 2003 | The Argus

Already facing several lawsuits stemming from decades-old alleged clergy sexual abuse, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland has been slapped with yet another suit involving a priest who served at parishes in six East Bay cities, including Fremont.

The alleged victim, Michael Martell, a 43-year-old Southern California man, said he hired Hayward-based attorney Rick Simons and Stockton-based attorney David Drivon to file a civil lawsuit against former Concord priest Father Donald Eugene Broderson after years of suffering.

"As a young teenager, the amount of shame, the amount of hurt and what he took away from me as a young boy is unexplainable," Martell said on the steps of Alameda County Superior Court, where the suit was filed Wednesday. "I think it's important that I come forward, it's part of my healing process and I want to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Sister Barbara Flannery, the diocese chancellor, said Wed-nesday she had not seen the suit and could not comment on the specifics of it. However, she did confirm Broderson was "forced into retirement" in 1991 and officially retired a few years later.

"It's my understanding there were complaints against him. He was forced into retirement, he did not want to retire," she said, adding that Broderson had all ministry privileges revoked when he left the diocese. He cannot use the term "father," wear the Roman collar or lead Mass, she said.

Martell said he was molested by Broderson more than a dozen times in 1973 and 1974 while he was an altar boy at Most Precious Blood parish in Concord, later renamed St. Francis parish. Broderson also worked at parishes in Fremont, Alameda, Hayward, Dublin and Castro Valley.

According to the suit, Martell claims the molestation caused him emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self esteem, disgrace, humiliation and loss of enjoyment of life.

Martell said Broderson, who was in charge of a teen program at the church, molested him in a bedroom of the rectory, in his car and in Martell's own bedroom when the priest was attending a family dinner.

Simons said Broderson is now a Richmond-based marriage family therapist and licensed hypnotist; however, attempts to reach him were unsuccessful. Broderson did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

Attorneys for Martell said they want the Oakland Diocese to notify the parishes where Broderson served from 1969 to retirement, but Flannery said that was done long ago. "When an individual name comes forward, we do look up where that person served and notify those parishes," she said.

Flannery said the diocese also submits information to local police departments and runs a support group and a weekend retreat program for victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Representing a half-million congregants in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, the diocese oversees more than 80 parishes in those counties. This new suit comes in the wake of other legal wranglings within the Oakland diocese.

In January, three men who say they were sexually molested by a Concord priest in the mid-1960s, filed lawsuits against the diocese, which was already facing at least one other suit.

The cases were filed under a new law that took effect Jan. 1, eliminating time limits and allowing alleged molestation victims from many years ago to take legal action.

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