April 05, 2005

Two former Oakland Diocese leaders testify they never checked priest's file

Contra Costa Times

By Randy Myers

HAYWARD - Two former leaders of the Catholic Diocese of Oakland said Monday in court that they never checked the personnel file of a former East Bay priest accused of sexually abusing altar boys.

John Cummins, bishop emeritus of the Oakland Diocese, and the Rev. Brian Joyce, the former diocesan chancellor and ex-chairman of the clergy personnel board, took the stand in the civil trial stemming from abuse charges brought by two former Antioch altar boys. Brothers Robert and Tom Thatcher claim that they were sexually molested by since-defrocked priest Robert Ponciroli at Antioch's St. Ignatius Church from 1979 to 1980.

Their case is part of the more than 150 suits brought against Northern California dioceses after a 2002 state law lifted the statute of limitations for one year.

The Oakland Diocese admitted it acted negligently in the decades-old case and has agreed to pay compensatory damages it considers reasonable. The Diocese, however, disagrees with paying punitive damages sought by Robert Thatcher.

Joyce admits he and the Diocese made some errors in judgment. He described receiving a phone call about Ponciroli's "tickling," angry outbursts and intimidating behavior, and talking to the priest about it. Joyce served as diocesan chancellor in the 1970s and is a priest at Pleasant Hill's Christ the King Parish.

Posted by kshaw at April 5, 2005 08:06 AM