February 19, 2005

Some plaintiffs want trial to air priests' offenses

Mercury News

By Robin Evans
Mercury News

Thirty years ago, according to their account, a group of young boys left St. Martin of Tours parish school in San Jose with an education -- and memories of shame and betrayal. They were the victims, they say, of sexual abuse by their trusted parish priest, a director of altar boys.

Today, they face the prospect of compensation: Settlement talks are scheduled to begin next week in lawsuits involving more than 80 negligence claims for sexual abuse by priests against the San Francisco Roman Catholic Archdiocese, which oversaw South Bay parishes when these events allegedly occurred. The lawsuits include claims by 22 former St. Martin's students -- including one woman -- of abuse by the Rev. Joseph Pritchard, the now deceased focus of a trial set to begin March 7 in San Francisco Superior Court.

While a monetary settlement would satisfy some needs, plaintiffs say it won't give them what they wanted most: Swift action by church officials. Now, they want some certainty that any misconduct by priests won't be obscured, forgotten or repeated. They feel public scrutiny at trial may give them that.

One plaintiff, still nervous about publicly attaching his name to his ``demoralizing'' history, admits a monetary settlement would help. The diocese pays for his therapy, but he thinks his children are going to need it, too.

``It's affected the entire family,'' he said. ``The family is walking on eggshells. They don't know when daddy is going to break down.''

Posted by kshaw at February 19, 2005 06:07 AM