May 04, 2006

'Everywhere I turned, I ran into sexual abuse'


Patrick Wall, or Brother Wall as he used to be known, is feeling a little jetlagged. He has just arrived in London on the red-eye from Los Angeles and has two hours before he has to catch a train to Cardiff - in pursuit of a special sort of criminal.

"I can't tell you much about the perpetrator until I get to Wales and sue his ass," he says, fixing me with a look that could stop the Vatican bells. "Let's just say that there are in excess of 20 victims - boys and girls - and that the alleged abuse dates back to the late 1970s."

Wall is a former Benedictine monk turned international clerical sleuth, and this is his 200th case since joining the LA law firm of Manly, McGuire & Stewart. His job is to hunt down Roman Catholic priests retired by the Vatican in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals that erupted in Boston and other north-American dioceses in 2002. Many of those priests have effectively gone to ground.

Wall's job is to find them, verify their identities, and then serve them with affidavits setting out their alleged involvement in abuse, as the first stage in bringing suits for damages on behalf of their victims in the US courts. It's a tricky job, one that requires a close familiarity with clergymen - and the cunning of Philip Marlowe.

Posted by kshaw at May 4, 2006 08:05 PM