March 16, 2005

Alleged abuse victims testify in church negligence trial

Mercury News

By Robin Evans
Mercury News

In the first day of testimony in a trial alleging church negligence regarding sexual abuse by a San Jose pastor in the 1970s, attorneys for a former Catholic school student who says he was molested tried to show that church officials may have or should have known beforehand the priest was acting inappropriately with the boys in his parish.

At least two priests witnessed boys sitting on the Rev. Joseph Pritchard's lap in his private rooms at St. Martin of Tours, and one of the alleged victims said a priest who walked in while he was being molested may have seen evidence of it, according to plaintiffs' attorney Larry Drivon.

Lawyers for the church conceded abuse probably took place but said neither the priests, other adults in the parish nor the San Francisco archbishop, who oversaw the San Jose region at the time, had any idea Pritchard was doing anything wrong. They also promised testimony from law enforcement about what child abuse experts at the time would have thought about a child sitting on a priest's lap.

``What we know now is that, unfortunately, Pritchard took advantage of his position as pastor -- shamefully, illegally, wrongly in every way,'' said archdiocese attorney Jim Goodman. ``The parish was completely aware that kids were coming and going from his room.

Posted by kshaw at March 16, 2005 05:36 AM