Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Appeals Court Rejects Molestation Suit Against Irish Church Officials
By a MetNews Staff Writer
California courts lack jurisdiction over a suit against Catholic church officials in Ireland who allegedly sent a newly trained priest to the Stockton archdiocese with knowledge of his propensity to molest children, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
Justices Monday affirmed Alameda Superior Court Judge Ronald M. Sabraw’s order quashing service of process on the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly in County Tiperary, Ireland. Sabraw is the coordination trial judge in molestation cases against the Archdiocese of Stockton, and appeals from his decisions in those cases are heard in this district by order of the Judicial Council.
The John Doe plaintiff in the case ruled on Monday settled with the Stockton archdiocese but added the Irish archdiocese to the case by way of a Doe amendment.
The plaintiff alleges that he was molested by Oliver O’Grady in 1969 and 1970, when the plaintiff was about 11 years old. He also contends that Cashel & Emly’s Saint Patrick’s College ordained O’Grady and sent him to Stockton with knowledge he was a child molester.
O’Grady was convicted of crimes against children in 1993 and served seven years in prison before returning to Ireland. He was the subject of the Oscar-nominated 2006 documentary, “Deliver Us From Evil,” and admitted having molested more than 20 children.
The Stockton archdiocese has paid several million dollars in settlements and judgments to O’Grady victims.
The archbishop of Cashel & Emly, in a declaration in support of the motion to quash, said that St. Patrick’s was located within the archdiocese boundaries but was “juridically separate” and governed by an independent board. Although now a traditional college, it was at one time one of six seminaries in Ireland.
The archbishop insisted that there was no relationship between O’Grady and the archdiocese, or between the archdiocese and the church authorities in Stockton, although the Stockton archdiocese paid St. Patrick to cover O’Grady’s tuition and living expenses, as other church authorities in the United States did in order to fulfill their need for new priests.
In opposition to the motion, the plaintiff submitted a declaration from Patrick Wall, a Catholic priest and Benedictine monk who has served as a consultant to lawyers representing victims of clerical sexual abuse. Wall, who claims an expertise in canon law, opined on the basis of church documents that the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly was responsible for O’Grady’s placement in Northern California, and that the church had to have known that he was a pedophile based on the contents of a petition for laicization—removal from the priesthood—that was brought in the 1990s.
An attorney for the archdiocese, however, filed a declaration in which he asserted that he had taken advanced courses in Latin literature, had taught the language, and understood the same documents reviewed by Wall to mean that O’Grady was ordained “for the benefit of service” in the Stockton archdiocese, not that Cashel & Emly had assigned him to Stockton.
The defense also filed a similar declaration from Nicholas Cafardi, former dean of Duquesne University Law School and the holder of a degree in canon law. Cafardi disputed the plaintiff’s claim that the petition for laicization effectively constituted an admission that the archbishop of Cashel & Emly knew that O’Grady was a pedophile when he was ordained.
The archdiocese also presented declarations from priests who knew Wall, attacking his qualifications in the field of canon law.
Sabraw found the defense experts more credible than Wall, and ruled that California lacked either general or specific jurisdiction over the Irish church. He said there was no admissible evidence that Irish church officials knew of O’Grady’s sexual predilections, nor any relationship between the Irish archdiocese and California that would support jurisdiction.
The judge explained that that simply because “many ordained priests leave Ireland and go elsewhere does not subject the seminary and Cashel & Emly to jurisdiction everywhere.” He emphasized that Cashel & Emly “did not expressly aim at or target California as a location to send O’Grady upon his ordination,” and found it unnecessary to determine the extent of the relationship between the archdiocese and the seminary.
Acting Presiding Justice Laurence Rubin, writing for the court, said that while the evidence was in conflict, the plaintiff had waived his right to contest the sufficiency of the defendant’s evidence by failing to discuss that evidence in the appellant’s briefs. Even without such a waiver, however, the trial judge’s ruling had to be affirmed because the evidence supported it, Rubin said.
“[T]he evidence most favorable to the trial court’s order shows that the Archdiocese, through Saint Patrick’s, did nothing more than receive money from the Stockton archdiocese to pay the costs and expenses of O’Grady’s education, and educated other priests who went on to serve throughout the United States, including California.
“By no stretch can such activities be considered so systematic, continuous, and wide-ranging that the Archdiocese is subject to the general jurisdiction of our courts.”
The case is Doe v. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel & Emly, 09 S.O.S. 5332.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company