March 10, 2005

Church loses on key points, witnesses

San Francisco Chronicle

Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Attempts by the Catholic Church to limit evidence and witnesses in a key sexual abuse coverup trial were rejected Wednesday by an East Bay judge.

The rulings by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Harry Sheppard put new pressure on the Diocese of Oakland to settle a damages suit by two former altar boys who say church leaders allowed a known pedophile priest to molest them in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Church lawyers have already admitted the diocese was negligent in its 1979 promotion of the Rev. Robert Ponciroli to pastor of St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Antioch.

Now the issue is whether the church is guilty of "intentional infliction of emotional distress."

Sheppard has yet to rule on that key point, but his decision could result in punitive damages and a much higher award to the plaintiffs in the case, Bob Thatcher, 34, of Phoenix, and his brother, Tom, 37, of Winter Springs, Fla.

Posted by kshaw at March 10, 2005 05:36 PM