November 10, 2005

Cleric's Memory at Issue in Report of Alleged Abuse

Los Angeles Times

By Jean Guccione, Times Staff Writer

Three years ago, a Catholic woman reported to her pastor that Father Michael Nocita had molested her when she was in high school.

Now that pastor, Msgr. Michael Lenihan, says he cannot recall how church officials handled her complaint. And the woman's lawyers have asked the court to force him to answer their questions as part of litigation over claims that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles failed to protect children from sexual abuse.

Church lawyer Don Woods said Lenihan, 79, testified truthfully during a July deposition. "Ask him the same questions and he would give the same exact answer," the attorney said.

But lawyers suing the archdiocese accused Lenihan of trying to protect the church.

"It's a way for the church to continue to keep secrets about what has been told to them by numerous victims abused by Catholic priests," said attorney Katherine K. Freberg, who represents the woman and 127 other plaintiffs suing the archdiocese.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Haley J. Fromholz tentatively ruled Wednesday that Lenihan, pastor emeritus at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Redondo Beach, must answer questions about two other accused former priests Michael S. Baker, whom he once supervised, and John Lenihan, his nephew but not about Nocita. A final ruling is expected as early as today.

Posted by kshaw at November 10, 2005 07:28 AM