April 05, 2005

Church leaders testify in brothers' abuse trial

San Francisco Chronicle

Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Former top officials of the Roman Catholic Oakland Diocese testified Monday that they hadn't realized the extent of a priest's sexual abuse and acknowledged that they had reassigned him to a new church without determining whether he had victimized other children.

John Cummins, bishop emeritus of the East Bay diocese, acknowledged to a Hayward jury that church officials hadn't fully investigated allegations involving the Rev. Robert Ponciroli, whom Bob and Tom Thatcher accuse of abusing them in the early 1980s when they were altar boys at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Antioch.

Ponciroli, 68, was removed from public ministry and faced criminal molestation charges until the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 overturned a California law allowing the prosecution of old molest cases.

"I did not really expect sexual abuse by priests to be a frequent occurrence," said Cummins, testifying in a civil lawsuit accusing the diocese of knowing that Ponciroli was a danger to children but doing nothing about it.

The Thatcher brothers are to testify today.

Posted by kshaw at April 5, 2005 12:23 PM