Local priests named in California sexual abuse report

Several Catholic priests who worked at schools and churches throughout Santa Barbara County were named as accused sexual assailants in a report on clergy abuse that was released by a national law firm on Oct. 2.

The report, which spans 125 pages and lists more than 300 clerics, religious employees, and volunteers who have been accused of sexual misconduct within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was compiled by Jeff Anderson and Associates, a law firm specializing in cases of childhood sexual abuse. The firm has been behind many of the major sex abuse lawsuits brought forward against the Catholic Church, and the California-focused report was released as part a nuisance lawsuit the firm is pursuing against the California bishops. 

click to enlarge Local priests named in California sexual abuse report
THE ACCUSED: Father Timothy Lane, a priest who currently works at St. Joseph Seminary in Santa Maria, was accused in 2006 of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old graduate of St. Joseph High School, where he had worked since 1999. Lane was one of more than 300 California priests listed as accused assailants in a report on clergy abuse released by Anderson and Associates on Oct. 2.

"This is a problem everywhere," Jeff Anderson, lead attorney for Jeff Anderson and Associates, said at a press conference in Los Angeles on Oct. 2. The conference was livestreamed online through the firm's website. 

"[The report] describes not only that there have been 309 predator priests, offending clerics, who worked and abused in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles," Anderson said, "but it describes in each case a history, and it more importantly describes the pattern and practice [of cover-up] that has and is being deployed by the Catholic bishops in Los Angeles. Not only in the past, but as we speak." 

In the report, Anderson and Associates alleges that Catholic churches in California have long-adhered to the same "playbook for concealing the truth" that Catholic churches throughout the world have been accused of using in dozens of sex abuse cases. The tactics, according to the report, include failing to report sexual assault accusations to law enforcement, inadequate in-house investigations, and relocating accused priests to different states and countries to avoid prosecution and public concern. 

That alleged pattern played out in Santa Maria in 2006, when Father Timothy Lane was accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old graduate of St. Joseph High School, where he had worked since 1999. 

Although the alleged assault took place in June 2006, the Santa Maria Times reported that the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office was not notified until September of that year, after the Archdiocese of Los Angeles completed its own investigation. Lane was then transferred to Missouri, according to the Anderson and Associates report, the Times, and the Lompoc Record. The Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office announced in 2007 that it would not charge Lane due to insufficient evidence. 

Lane returned to the St. Joseph Seminary in Santa Maria that year and is still there today, according to a person who answered the seminary's phone on Oct. 2.

When asked if Lane was available for an interview, the person who answered the phone briefly paused and said, "Father Timothy Lane refuses to talk to you," before hanging up. 

Priests who worked at missions La Purisima, Santa Ines, Santa Barbara, a seminary in Santa Barbara, and a church in New Cuyama were also named as accused abusers in the report. One of the most notable priests, Father Matthew Kelly, who started the "Blue Jackets" club for young boys in Santa Barbara, was accused of sexually assaulting more than seven boys at a cabin in the Santa Ynez Mountains, according to the report. 

The report, according to Anderson and Associates, serves as a "predator priest" list for concerned community members and parents in California. 

Through the lawsuit, Anderson and Associates and its plaintiffs, including Camarillo resident Tom Emens, will not be seeking monetary damages or retributions. Instead, the firm called for all California bishops to immediately release the names and documented histories on all clerical offenders in each diocese, and those who have been "complicit" in allowing the abuses to continue. 

"Come clean," Anderson said at the press conference. "Let the public, let the police, let the people know who the offenders are. Stop allowing kids to be hurt by priests."

In a statement emailed to the Sun on Oct. 2, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said it had not been served with a lawsuit, and that Anderson's report and complaint was based on information which was made public by the Archdiocese in 2013, a 2004 report completed by the Archdiocese itself, and other information that has been "publicly available for over a decade." 

The statement included information on the Archdiocese's strict "zero tolerance" abuse policy, abuse prevention and reporting programs for adults and minors, fingerprinting and background checks for employees and volunteers at parishes and schools, clergy formation programs to prevent abuse, and victim support programs. 

The programs, according to the statement, work to ensure that abuse is reported to the police and investigated regardless of the statute of limitations, that victim-survivors and their families receive healing support, and that anyone found to have abused a minor at any time in their lives, regardless of whether a member of the clergy or a lay person, is not allowed to serve in any capacity in the Archdiocese under zero tolerance

"These programs and policies do not take away from the very real harm that was done and the trust that has been broken in the church," the statement reads. "However, they are a testament to the commitment of the people of the Archdiocese, the majority of whom are lay Catholics who have worked for almost three decades to implement and carry out these programs ... ."

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