Stockton Catholic diocese apologizes for clergy abuse

Lodi News-Sentinel/January 24, 2004
By Ross Farrow

The Stockton Roman Catholic Diocese issued its own mea culpa Thursday, apologizing to anyone who has been sexually abused by a priest in its diocese.

"With sadness and profound regret, the Diocese of Stockton apologizes to the victims and their families for the pain and hurt caused them," according to the statement, issued by Bishop Stephen Blaire. "Sexual abuse of minors is a serious crime, a grave sin and a reprehensible violation of a sacred trust."

The apology accompanied a report on how many priests had been accused of sexually abusing minors since 1962, when the diocese was formed. Other statistical information was compiled.

Since 1962, 29 individuals alleged sexual abuse by clergy affiliated by the Stockton Diocese. Seventeen of the allegations were against one priest, Oliver O'Grady, who served at Lodi's St. Anne's Catholic Church in the 1970s.

In all, 10 priests in the diocese were accused of sexual abuse since 1962, the report says. There have been 404 priests in the diocese since that time.

The diocese includes 33 churches and 12 mission churches in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, the foothills and the eastern Sierra south to Mammoth Lakes.

There are currently 12 lawsuits pending against the diocese, seven of them involving O'Grady, said Sister Barbara Thiella, chancellor of the Stockton Diocese.

Additionally, nearly $10 million have been paid in settlements on various cases, according to the diocese report. Insurance carriers paid $5 million of the settlements, while the diocese paid $4.5 million.

One settlement alone, which involved O'Grady, accounted for $4 million of the overall diocesan payments.

O'Grady was a priest at St. Anne's from 1971 to 1978. He was later reassigned as a priest to four parishes within the diocese -- Church of the Presentation in Stockton and Sacred Heart in Turlock. He was then an assistant pastor at St. Andrew's Catholic Church in San Andreas and St. Anthony's in Hughson.

O'Grady served seven years in prison for sexual molestation after pleading guilty in 1993 to four counts of sexual molestation of children under 14.

After his parole from Mule Creek State Prison in Ione in 2000, O'Grady was removed from the priesthood by Vatican officials and deported to his native Ireland.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops required all dioceses to compile statistics on clergy abuse over the past 50 years. The Stockton Diocese report only goes back to Jan. 13, 1962, when the diocese was formed. Previously, area Catholic churches were in either the Sacramento or San Francisco dioceses.

Thiella said the diocese has adopted a written policy for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Any priest, deacon, employee or volunteer who has proven to have sexually abused a minor will never again function in the ministry within the diocese, Thiella said.

A diocesan review board, composed primarily of lay professionals, was appointed last year, and a coordinator for safe environments for children and youth was hired.

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