March 30, 2005

Lawyer works to show abuse was hidden

Contra Costa Times

By Randy Myers

HAYWARD - Testimony in two former altar boys' sex suit against the Catholic Diocese of Oakland sped forward Tuesday as jurors heard how church notes about priests abusing children were lost or destroyed.

A priest who admitted molesting children also took the stand.

Robert and Tom Thatcher are suing the diocese for compensatory damages for abuse they claim they suffered at the hands of defrocked priest Robert Ponciroli. The boys served as altar boys at St. Ignatius Church in Antioch from 1979 to 1981.

Robert Thatcher also is seeking punitive damages, an act that broadens the scope of the trial because it means plaintiffs attorney Rick Simons must establish that the diocese made a pattern of hiding the abuse. He began calling witnesses to help him do that Tuesday, the trial's second day of testimony.

Church leaders have conceded the diocese acted negligently in the case, but they say the behavior doesn't warrant punitive damages.

Posted by kshaw at March 30, 2005 06:49 AM