March 29, 2005

Diocese trial opens with story of abuse

Contra Costa Times

By Randy Myers

HAYWARD - After the yard work was done, one brother waited at the bottom of the rectory's stairwell while the other went upstairs for his "punishment" at the hands of a sexually abusive priest.

That is how lead plaintiff attorney Rick Simons described the start of the sexual abuse of Robert and Tom Thatcher, two brothers and former Antioch altar boys who are suing the Oakland Diocese for damages in a decades-old molestation case at St. Ignatius.

"These events cost these boys dearly," Simons said during opening statements Monday in a Hayward courtroom.

Simons told the jury of 10 women and two men that the abuse robbed the brothers of their faith, their self-respect and a place to find solace. He said the defendant "gave the priest the green light."

The brothers' civil trial is part of the more than 150 Northern California sexual abuse lawsuits confronting dioceses after a California law lifted the statute of limitations for one year on the claims.

In his opening statement, Simons painted a portrait of the Thatchers as a devout but imperfect Catholic family whose trust and faith were betrayed by inaction of church personnel who were aware of Father Robert Ponciroli's behavior.

Posted by kshaw at March 29, 2005 06:00 AM