March 08, 2005

Last-ditch settlement talks in clergy scandal

San Francisco Chronicle

Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

People who say they were victims of priestly pedophilia finally got their first day in court Monday as two trials in the Northern California clergy sex abuse scandal began in San Francisco and the East Bay.

At the same time, lawyers for plaintiffs, the Roman Catholic Church and its insurance companies continued settlement talks in a game of brinkmanship over who will pay for alleged church cover-ups of child sexual abuse by priests.

Such claims are at the heart of 150 lawsuits filed against dioceses and religious orders in Northern California, including the San Francisco case and a suit that went to trial Monday in Hayward.

In that case, two brothers, Bob and Tom Thatcher, say leaders of the Oakland Diocese allowed them to be abused in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Antioch by a known molester, the Rev. Robert Ponciroli, who is now 68 and retired.

"This is not just about Tom and me," said Bob Thatcher, 34, a Phoenix salesman and former altar boy at St. Ignatius parish in Antioch. "It's about the truth being told."

Posted by kshaw at March 8, 2005 06:55 AM