LOS ANGELES Msgr. Michael Harris, a once popular school principal in Orange County, faces new allegations of sexual abuse. Harris, who had raised funds for Rancho Santa Margarita High School which he founded and ran until being suspended as a priest in 1994 for earlier allegations, denies the charges that he molested another male student.
This suit, like the previous one, names the Diocese of Orange and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles also. The first lawsuit was dropped because Harris had no assets with which to pay a judgement against him, and a judge dismissed the cases against the dioceses. The plaintiff is appealing the dismissal. (11/21)
STOCKTON Fr. William Ryan, who embezzled $76,000 from Annunciation Cathedral, has not paid anything of his court-ordered restitution, nor has he performed hardly any of the community service Yet he is still on the diocesan payroll, earning $1,000 a month for doing nothing as diocesan officials have still not decided what to do about his case.
Ryan bought himself a house and condo, new car, country club membership, numerous trips to Ireland and spent $20,000 on home remodeling from the donations he stole from the collection plate. He pleaded no contest to felony charges of grand theft and tax evasion. He was sentenced to five years probation, to repay the money and perform 2,000 hours of community service (of which he has done only 64 hours) in order to avoid a two-year prison sentence. He was chastised in court for violating his parole terms, and was warned that if he does so again, he will be sent to prison. (11/7)
BUENA PARK A controversial Southern Baptist paster known for his support of a boycott of the Walt Disney Co. was sentenced to 1,500 hours of community service for violating city building codes by sheltering the homeless at his church. However, the judge also credited Rev. Wiley Drake, 53, with the same amount of time for his past efforts to aid the homeless. (10/23)
LEADVILLE A Las Vegas, New Mexico couple has sued the Community Evangelical Free Church of Leadville alleging that a church volunteer molested their three children. The claim Brian Manuel, recommended by Rev. Geoffrey Nelson, who is accused of negligence, molested the children, who were 3, 4 and 6 years old at the time, while babysitting on New Year's Eve in 1995. (1/4)
DENVER A popular pastor who led a gun buy-back campaign has been removed from his post due to sexual abuse allegations. Yet still he retains the support of many of his former parishioners. Fr. Marshall Gourley, 48, a Theatine Order priest, was removed from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church a month after being named in a lawsuit filed by San Diego attorney John Ayon, 33, who alleges that Gourley led him into a sexual relationship beginning in 1980 shortly before his 16th birthday at the Littleton church and lasted until 1984. Gourley vigorously denies the charges.
Ayon's suit names the Archdiocese of Denver and Archbishop Charles Chaput and has hired Denver lawyer Greg Stutz and Windle Turley of Dallas. They claim Ayon contacted the diocese before filing the suit, which church officials strongly deny.
Ayon, a Harvard Law School graduate, has had troubles before. He filed a race discrimination lawsuit in 1995 against an accounting firm in Denver after attempting suicide in 1993, a year in which he also filed for bankruptcy. (12/25)
HARTFORD A pastor who regularly sexually assaulted two teenage sisters, threatening them and their mother with deportation if they complained, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison and 20 years probation. Rev. Carlos Sunun, 41, entered an Alford plea which permitted him to deny the facts of the crimes but agree he would likely be convicted at a trial.
Yet he fathered a daughter on the younger sister, a 15-year-old. His
abuse of his parishioners took place regularly during 1995-6. He first started
molesting the older sister, a 16-year-old, and then the younger. The attacks
occurred on numerous occasions at his home and in his vehicle.
The police were tipped off a year before Sunun's arrest, but the older girl denied the allegations and did not cooperate with the investigation. It was dropped until both sisters approached the police in Nov. 1996.
Both girls said he deserved a harsher penalty, and even his lown awyer characterized him as "a horrible person." (11/21)
TALLAHASSEE Three sisters have accused their former pastor of seducing them when they were girls, including one who said she she went to him for counseling after losing their virginity.
Fr. Donald McCreanor, 49 and a licensed therapist, resigned his post, was suspended, and entered a church-run treatment center after the women went public with their story. They claim they did so because they had informed the diocese of their charges 14 months previously and nothing had been done.
After the story was published, two other women told the local paper that McCreanor had made sexual overtures to them as well. One had a troubled marriage and claims he propositioned her during confession. She said he suggested that she have an affair "with someone safe, like me."
She eventually did have a tumultuous affair with him that lasted about a year. After working out her marital problems, she complained to the state Dept. of Professional Regulation but her charges were dismissed because the affair happened before he was licensed as a therapist.
McCreanor allegedly bought the other woman, his housecleaner, risque lingerie and suggested that she wear it at his house.
The vice chancellor of the diocese said later that five women had called to accuse McCreanor since the articles ran. He would not confirm if the callers included the women who had contacted the newspapers.
The accusations were made public the same week that Fr. Rick Castillo, 43, who had enrolled himself in the same treatment center last spring, admitted sexually abusing four teenage boys several years ago. (11/21)
LINCOLN A radically conservative group has become embroiled in a lawsuit yet to be filed by 12 men alleging that they were molested by Msgr. Norman Goodman when they were altar boys. The suit, which also names the Diocese of Peoria, will claim that one was molested in the 1970s and the rest in the 80s, and that the diocese was informed about the abuse at least twice but failed to take action.
Goodman, pastor of Holy Family since 1962, resigned and left town abruptly in late October but vigorously denies the allegations.
Suspicions of larger ideological agenda have been raised due to the involvement of James Bendell, one of two attorneys representing the young men. Bendell is on the board of Roman Catholic Faithful (RCF), a conservative advocacy group, which last year publicly accused another church official of sexual misconduct but would not produce evidence.
Bendell denied any larger agenda, and claimed that since one of the 12 is a minor, criminal charges may be filed as well. (1/23)
LOMBARD The sexual relations of a former pastor apparently went far beyond the one married woman with whom he admitted having an affair. In court documents, Fr. Donald Kocher, now admits that he had sexual relationships with about a dozen women since he was ordained 32 years ago.
A suit brought by the woman, now 42, who served as a pastoral associate, maintains she was fired after she asked to be transferred because of the affair. The suit also names the Diocese of Joliet, charging that church officials were negligent, because in the 1970s a husband had called the bishop and claimed that Kocher had given his wife a sexually-transmitted disease. Kocher admitted having sex with the woman, but said that Bishop Blanchette had only a brief talk with him about it.
Kocher served in the US Air Force and four other parishes before he stepped down after admitting the affair. (No date)
INDIANAPOLIS Fr. Donald Eder has been accused in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit by a female church employee of repeatedly touching her breasts and at least twice calling her a "whore." The woman claims that Bishop William Higi failed to protect here and other women in the church, even though Eder made offensive comments about her and another female employee in front of him.
Eder underwent counseling earlier in 1997 for alcohol-related problems, returned to ministry, apologizing publicly for his inappropriately crossing boundaries, but denies the allegations. (12/6)
INDIANAPOLIS Fr. Anthony Levi, 36, has been placed on an indefinite leave of absence after admitting misconduct with an adult. Diocesan officials, though citing a policy of "zero tolerance," would not say what he did wrong or whether it was sexual in nature. But he was said to be "in an institute where he can be evaluated."
Levi's dismissal was the latest blow to a diocese that has been rocked by a series of reports in local newspapers a year ago that detailed sexual misconduct by 16 priests over the past 25 years. The series of articles showed that diocesan officials had been lax or slow slow to discipline errant priests and often failed to disclose the abuses to the parishioners and public. (11/12)