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Stockton Diocese to Pay $3 Million in Abuse Suit

Boy was allegedly raped in a confessional by a priest, who denies it but admits molesting others

May 20, 2005 | Los Angeles Times

The Diocese of Stockton will pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that a former Roman Catholic priest raped a boy in a church confessional while he forced the child to say penance.

The settlement, announced Thursday, is the latest involving Oliver Francis O'Grady, a former Stockton priest who spent seven years in state prison for child molestation before U.S. immigration authorities deported him to Ireland in 2001.

O'Grady's chillingly frank account of his decades-long sexual attraction to children refocused national attention on the clergy sexual abuse scandal last week.

In a 15-hour videotaped deposition, he admitted molesting 25 children, and described how he groomed his young victims for abuse. At one point, he looked into the camera, softened his voice, and demonstrated how he might lure a young girl into his arms, with the intention of fondling her.

He denies, however, molesting the man who just settled with the diocese.

Costa Mesa attorney John C. Manly, who represents that plaintiff, now 42, said the O'Grady case was emblematic of the church hierarchy's failure to stop predator priests or to warn parishioners of the danger.

"I think it absolutely shows that the Diocese of Stockton was culpable," he said.

The diocese issued a statement saying it was "pleased to bring this matter to closure for those involved and looks forward to continuing its effort to reach fair and just resolution for victims of childhood sexual abuse."

Sister Terry Davis, director of communications for the diocese, declined to comment further.

So far, the diocese has paid $14 million to resolve five claims accusing church leaders of failing to protect children from O'Grady. Three more suits are pending.

The church paid an initial $7.5-million settlement involving O'Grady in 1998 from its own coffers, and the diocese's insurers will pay $6.6 million for the two settlements reached so far this year, a church official said.

The alleged victim involved in the most recent settlement accused O'Grady of molesting and raping him at least twice a week for seven years, beginning when he was an 11-year-old student and altar boy at St. Anne's Catholic Church and School in Lodi.

It was only the diocese that settled, so the man's suit against the former priest himself will continue, Manly said.

The Times does not identify sexual abuse victims.

The abuse began when O'Grady masturbated the boy, saying it was necessary to get "the evil" out of him, Manly said. Later, the priest announced that he would put "goodness" back into the boy by raping him, the lawyer added.

Over the years, O'Grady would remove the boy from classes, take him into his bedroom at the rectory and sexually assault him, according to court documents.

The boy was such a familiar face in the rectory that the parish secretary would ask him to hide his bicycle in the back so others would not see it, the documents said. The secretary also took towels into the priest's room while the boy was there, the documents allege.

O'Grady, 59, admitted on the videotape that he knew the boy's mother, who worked in the parish, but rebutted her claim that the priest visited her family so often that he had a key to their house.

In court papers, he denied that he had ever abused the boy, asserting that the repeated rape of a boy by a non-family member was "simply inconceivable."

Those acts, he wrote, would "be more easily performed and repeated on a person in his home and in his own bed. Here the boy his age [around 11] is powerless to escape since there is no place he can escape to."

O'Grady also referred to the "excruciating pain" endured by a child during a sexual attack, as well as physical damage such as bleeding.

In his response to the lawsuit, the former priest asked, "Is there any DNA evidence that links me to the crimes committed on this person?"

He said someone else must have sexually abused the boy.

Currently a resident of Thurles, Ireland, O'Grady began molesting children almost as soon as he joined the Stockton Diocese in 1971, according to court papers.

He told his bishop in 1976 that he had molested an 11-year-old girl, yet he was allowed to remain at St. Anne's, where he allegedly abused other children, according to court documents. The priest even wrote the family an apology that police later found in his confidential priest personnel file.

Now-Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles supervised O'Grady when he became bishop of Stockton in 1980. Mahony testified that he never saw O'Grady's apology for molesting a child in the priest's confidential file.

In 1984, police investigated a therapist's report that O'Grady had molested a boy, but they did not pursue charges. After the investigation, Mahony moved O'Grady to a parish in the Sierra foothill town of San Andreas, and later promoted him to pastor.

In 1998, a Stockton jury awarded two of O'Grady's victims $30 million, later reduced to $7 million. Jurors told The Times that they thought Mahony was untruthful on the witness stand and that he had allowed O'Grady's pattern of abuse to continue.

Mahony said in 2002 that he thought the jurors had been wrong, and he insisted that he took extraordinary steps to protect children.

Over the years, O'Grady said on the videotape, he tried to understand and possibly curb his appetite for children reading books about his disorder, touring a residential treatment center for pedophile priests and eventually opening his parish to secret Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings so he could attend.

After O'Grady was released from prison and returned to Ireland, the Stockton Diocese paid for him to undergo three years of outpatient therapy, he said, and agreed to pay him $800 a month for 10 years starting on his 65th birthday.

"I would have liked somebody in the diocese or somebody to have intervened as early as possible in helping me confront this situation as a very, very serious one," he said, "and help to educate me to the very serious nature of the problem that I had and was causing."


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