Diocese of San Diego accused in lawsuit of transferring real estate assets to avoid paying settlements

— The lawsuit claims the Diocese transferred its properties so that those assets weren’t reachable by its creditors, namely survivors of sexual abuse.


The lawsuit claims the Diocese transferred its properties so that those assets weren’t reachable by its creditors, namely survivors of sexual abuse.

A new lawsuit claims that the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego transferred ownership of 291 real estate holdings and parcels across San Diego and Imperial counties to parish corporations in order to conceal the Diocese’s true assets to avoid paying settlements of suits brought by survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

The lawsuit, filed in San Diego County Superior Court by The Zalkin Law Firm on behalf of more than 100 plaintiffs who say they were sexually abused by Catholic priests or employees of the Diocese in either San Diego or Imperial county, claims the Diocese began to transfer its property after the passage of Assembly Bill 218. That California law, passed in 2019, significantly extended the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual assault to file lawsuits against their abusers. Survivors can now file suits up until age 40. Starting in 2020, the bill also opened a three-year window for filing lawsuits regardless of the plaintiffs age.

After the passage of the law, more than 400 lawsuits were filed against the Diocese of San Diego.

Earlier this month, the Diocese announced that its leaders are considering filing for bankruptcy in the face of the legal costs and projected settlement costs of those lawsuits.

Irwin Zalkin, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, called that claim a public relations spin.

Citing deeds in the County Recorder’s office, the lawsuit posits that the total assessed value of the property the Diocese transferred is over $453 million.

“Plaintiffs believe and allege that all of the transfers described below were done as part of a scheme created, masterminded, and designed by Diocese and the Parishes for the Diocese to transfer properties to the Parishes so the assets of the Diocese are not reachable by the Diocese’s creditors, particularly not reachable by Plaintiffs to satisfy Plaintiffs’ Claims against the Diocese,” the lawsuit states.

In a press release, Zalkin said the Diocese made a similar claim in another case that their parish real estate assets were separate from their own real estate assets, and that they were being held in trust for their parishes. That case was settled before that argument was officially decided, Zalkin said, but he believes that the court will not agree side with the Diocese.

“The judge will find that this is a sham,” Zalkin said.

Zalkin’s firm was appointed the liaison counsel on behalf of 144 sexual abuse survivors who settled with the Diocese for $198 million during the Diocese’s bankruptcy proceedings in 2007.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Diocese set up a “Independent Compensation Fund.” Survivors of clergy sexual abuse could submit a claim against a priest, which would then be evaluated by an independent claim evaluator, to see if the survivor was eligible for a settlement. The lawsuit claims that the process was designed to draw out survivors who were eligible to bring lawsuits against their abusers, and given settlements that were “pennies on the dollar.”

“At the same time that the ‘Independent Compensation Fund’ was becoming operational and the Senate was passing AB 218 on to the Governor in mid-September of 2019, the Diocese was engaged in a massive effort to transfer title to hundreds of millions of dollars of real property for no consideration,” the lawsuit suites. “Plaintiffs are informed and believe and on that basis allege that this fraudulent scheme, which is described below and is the subject of this lawsuit, was intended to defraud Plaintiffs and others with claims based on clergy sexual abuse.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, Zalkin added that the properties that were transferred by the Diocese to parish corporations included private homes, and most of the properties were transferred in 2019, the year Assembly Bill 218 was passed. The parishes did not pay for the properties either, Zalkin said.

“This is fraud,” Zalkin said.

The lawsuit, Zalkin said, is the linchpin to making sure the survivors of clergy sexual abuse get adequate compensation if the Diocese declares bankruptcy again.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Complete Article HERE!

Liberal Bishop David O’Connell, shot dead in Los Angeles, supported same-sex parents and ordination of women

— Contribution by Bishop O’Connell which endorsed non-traditional families was cut from World Meeting of Families video in 2018

Bishop David O’Connell, who was shot dead at his home in Los Angeles on Saturday

By Patsy McGarry

A video expressing support for same-sex parents and other non-traditional families by Bishop David O’Connell (69), who was shot dead in a Los Angeles suburb last Saturday, was cut from the World Meeting of Families promotional material.

In March 2018, six months before the World Meeting of Families took place in Dublin, it emerged words of his were cut from a video prepared to promote that event.

These words included: “Pope Francis, he gets it. He gets it that our society has changed so much in the last couple of generations. We have all sorts of configurations of families now, whether it’s just the traditional family of mum and dad together, or it’s now mum on her own or dad on his own, or a gay couple raising children, or people in second marriages. No matter what the configuration of the family is, the call is still to adults to think about how to provide the best, most loving, faithful environment for children possible.”

At the time a spokeswoman for the World Meeting of Families said: “The wrong version of the video for Parish Session 1 was inadvertently uploaded for a short time but the correct version is now in place.”

From Glanmire in Cork, Bishop O’Connell served in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles after his ordination in 1979 at Dublin’s All Hallows College. After many years ministry in some of the more disadvantaged parishes of south Los Angeles, he was named an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese in 2015.

The original Bishop O’Connell video attracted the attention of the US-based fundamentalist Catholic Church Militant website which said it “promotes the sin of homosexuality” in an article headed `Sodomy Supporters Hijack World Meeting of Families’.

Bishop O’Connell did not attend the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in 2018, although he and a group of 45 people from the Los Angeles Archdiocese had been on pilgrimage in Ireland days before the event began in Dublin on August 25th that year.

Interviewed at the time, he did not comment on the censoring of his video, but did say Pope Francis faced “an impossible task” on his visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families because of the shadow cast by clerical child sex abuse scandals.

Reflecting on the visit to Ireland of Pope John Paul II in 1979, Bishop O’Connell said “we thought this would be a revival of the Catholic Church in Ireland, which even at that time we needed.

“Even though the faith and practice were very strong, among many of my peers, my generation was already turning away from the Catholic faith even in the 1970s. We were hoping for a revival, and we thought that there would be.”

He continued: “But then of course, there was scandal and the trust broke, and now we’ve had stories coming out for a whole generation. It’s given everybody who didn’t want to go to church anymore a reason to say, ‘I’m over with all that. It’s all hypocrisy, there’s too much child abuse, abuse of people’.”

For Pope Francis “to be able to deal with all these issues in 32 hours? Obviously, he can’t,” he said.

Fluent in Spanish, prior to becoming an auxiliary bishop he attracted much positive attention for his work with African Americans and Hispanic communities in addressing immigration, unemployment, and south Los Angeles’s history of gang violence.

At a At a press conference following his announcement as auxiliary bishop he said: “I can walk around the streets of South LA and have done so for many years, where there’s violence and shootings, and I don’t feel the slightest bit of anxiety. But I come in here today and I’m shaking in my boots.”

He was also a liberal in Catholic Church terms as far back as 2002 when in a Los Angles Times profile he said “women should be ordained and clergy should be able to marry.” On the issue of clerical abuse and its cover-up he said that “if there had been some parents in there running things, none of this would have ever happened”.

At the time of the 1992 Los Angeles riots in which over 60 people died following the brutal beating of Rodney King by police, then Fr O’Connell was in Washington DC giving evidence about violence in urban America to a committee of Congress. He returned to Los Angles to find widespread destruction in his parish. He and other local faith leaders held meetings with sheriffs and members of the LAPD in people’s homes to build trust. Violent deaths began to decrease.

In recent years he had been chairman of the Church’s Southern Californian Immigration Task Force which helped coordinate a response to the influx of migrants from Central America. He was also chair of chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope intervenes again to restrict celebration of Latin Mass

— Pope Francis has intervened for the third time to crack down on the celebration of the old Latin Mass, a sign of continued friction with Catholic traditionalists.

Cardinal Arthur Roche walks after receiving the red three-cornered biretta hat from Pope Francis during a consistory inside St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, on Aug. 27, 2022. Pope Francis approved a new decree published Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, repeating that the Holy See must sign off on bishops’ decisions to designate new parish churches for the Latin Mass or to let newly ordained priests celebrate the old rite. The decree states that the Vatican’s liturgy office, headed by British Cardinal Arthur Roche, is responsible for granting such approvals.


Francis reasserted in a new legal decree published Tuesday that the Holy See must approve new celebrations of the old rite by signing off on bishops’ decisions to designate additional parish churches for the Latin Mass or to let newly ordained priests celebrate it.

The decree states that the Vatican’s liturgy office, headed by British Cardinal Arthur Roche, is responsible for evaluating such requests on behalf of the Holy See and that all requests from bishops must go there.

For weeks, Catholic traditionalist blogs and websites have reported a further crackdown on the old Latin Mass was in the works, following Francis’ remarkable decision in 2021 to reimpose restrictions on its celebration that were relaxed in 2007 by then-Pope Benedict XVI.

Francis said at the time that he was acting to preserve church unity, saying the spread of the Tridentine Mass had become a source of division and been exploited by Catholics opposed to the Second Vatican Council, the 1960s meetings that modernized the church and its liturgy.

Roche’s office followed up a few months later to double down on the Vatican’s position with a series of questions and answers that made clear that celebrating some sacraments according to the old rite was forbidden.

The new decree doesn’t restrict the celebration further but merely repeats what was previously declared. Its insistence on Roche’s authority in the process appeared aimed primarily at quashing traditionalist claims that the cardinal had exceeded his mandate. Francis signed off on the decree Monday during a private audience with Roche.

Francis’ crackdown on the old Mass outraged his conservative and traditionalist critics, many of whom have also attacked him for his focus on the environment, social justice and migrants.

Francis says he preaches the Gospel and what Jesus taught, and has defended the restrictions by saying they actually reflect Benedict’s original goal while curbing the way his 2007 concession was exploited for ideological ends.

Complete Article HERE!

Archdiocese of Denver Clarifies Stance on Refusing Four Women Wearing Rainbow Masks

— The Archdiocese of Denver allegedly refused the four women wearing rainbow masks during Communion at All Souls Catholic Church. Recently, they clarified the issue through their spokesperson, Kelly Clark.

By Bernadette Salapare

Kelly Clark, a spokesman for the Denver Archdiocese, told The Denver Post that nobody from All Souls was available to discuss the subject. She also stated that the Archdiocese will not give a statement in response to the claim, yet, she did mention in an email that “the most sacred thing we do as Catholics is celebrated Mass.”

According to Clark, the Mass is a time to worship God and not a time to seemingly make a statement or enter Mass to generate a response. It is appropriate for a priest to give a blessing instead of Communion if it appears that the person isn’t ready to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ. If people believe that they were denied Communion in error, they strongly recommend they discuss the matter with the pastor of their parish, she added.

Story of the Four Women During Communion in Archdiocese of Denver

A report from Into stated that on Saturday, Feb. 11, the four close friends Sally Odenheimer, 71, Susan Doty, 81, Jill Moore, 64, and Cindy Grubenhoff, 48, went to the Mass held at All Souls Catholic Parish in Englewood. The priest gave a puzzled expression after taking one glimpse at the congregation’s rainbow face masks while they were lining up to take the Eucharist.

As mentioned, the four close friends wanted to show their support for local teacher Maggie Barton, who had been dismissed due to her sexual orientation, by wearing face masks. Barton was employed at All Souls Catholic School as a technology teacher until the Archdiocese of Denver got a photo of her kissing her partner. On Jan. 26, a day after Pope Francis condemned punitive actions for homosexuality, she was terminated from her position.

According to Advocate, even though none of them often goes to All Souls, Sally Odenheimer saw an opportunity to show her support for the educator. She organized a group of her friends to wear LGBTQ-affirming clothing and attend Mass at the church, where Barton was dismissed from her position. The women were taken aback when the priest refused to give them Communion. However, they did not make a fuss about it and simply continued with the Mass.

>As per Christianity Daily, the Archdiocese of Denver has a different stance on the issue. They claim that Barton’s dismissal resulted from her failure to abide by the commitments outlined in her contract with the school. The contract says that all Catholic school teachers are expected to live a Catholic lifestyle and refrain from engaging in behavior opposite to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Barton did not adhere to the commitments outlined in her contract with the school. Despite the provided explanation by the church, Barton continues to be firm in her opinion that she was fired due to discrimination in the LGBT community.

Complete Article HERE!

‘Annihilating for survivors’

— The Catholic church and its plaques to abuse perpetrators

The Catholic church has faced many requests in Australia to remove plaques to perpetrators of child sexual abuse and those who were seen to protect them.

Across Australia child sexual abuse survivors have to contend with church memorials to their abusers and those who protected them

By and

For the past 10 years, on the grounds of one of Canberra’s most prominent Catholic schools, a small plaque has paid tribute to the service of a man named Brother Jerome Hickman. Under the school sigil of Marist College Canberra, the plaque commemorates the work of the late Hickman, honouring him along what is known as “the Brothers Way”, a walk of appreciation for past clergy and staff.

The plaque, quietly removed in recent weeks, gave no hint of his darker past.

Hickman was the subject of multiple complaints of child sexual abuse and violence spanning his career in the Marist order.

The church has long held knowledge of complaints about him and has offered payouts and apologies to survivors in out-of-court settlements, according to Kelso Lawyers, a firm specialising in clergy abuse cases that has represented Hickman’s multiple victims.

In one of the cases run by Kelso Lawyers, a student at a Marist school in the Sydney suburb of Dundas, known by the pseudonym of Matthew, alleged he was violently raped and abused by Hickman from the age of just 10. The church has apologised and paid Matthew a significant settlement.

Despite this, the plaque remained on school grounds from 2012, when it was installed, until at least December, according to photos seen by the Guardian. The school says it has now been removed but could not say when, or whether it had only acted this week, after a survivor’s complaint and the Guardian’s questions.

A plaque commemorating Brother Jerome Hickman at Marist College Canberra.
A plaque commemorating Brother Jerome Hickman at Marist College Canberra

For survivor Damian De Marco, a former Marist student, local Australian of the Year award winner and advocate for child abuse survivors, the plaque is evidence of a “deeply entrenched cultural problem” still rife across the church.

De Marco complained to the ACT government about the continued presence of the plaque this week, describing the commemoration of Hickman as “outrageous” and urging it to intervene.

“It is outrageous that yet again, for the third time in six years, Marist College needs to be asked to remove items celebrating paedophiles or those who have protected them,” he wrote.

It’s far from an isolated case for the church. In Ballarat, the centre of clergy abuse in Australia, plaques commemorating Bishop Ronald Mulkearns still adorn local buildings.

A survivor of paedophile Catholic priest Paul David Ryan, whom Mulkearns protected, says he started campaigning for the removal of the plaques in 2016.

The survivor, who wished to be referred to as BPD, as he was during the child abuse royal commission, would constantly see Mulkearns’s name on local churches, schools and halls. Mulkearns had ignored BPD’s complaints about Ryan, allowing him to go on to offend against other children.

It was a pattern Mulkearns repeated with other serial offenders, including Gerald Ridsdale, considered one of the worst clerical child sexual abusers in Australian history.

BPD says he’s had about 15 plaques with Mulkearns’s name on them removed since 2016.

“I’ll just drive around and stop at a church or a school and a hall and if I see the name I’ll call up the parish and ask, ‘Is this kosher?’” he said.

“I really don’t mind if I come across as a cockhead. What it comes down to is why do you honour a guy who cuts a ribbon to open a building when he has allowed people to go and hurt others?”

Sometimes action is swift but he has also met resistance.

He says when he approached one priest about removing a plaque adorned with Mulkearns’s name and provided him with a victim impact statement that outlined how Ryan’s offending had changed his life, the priest declined to remove the plaque but asked if he could use part of the statement for a sermon.

Time and again, it has been left to survivors to pressure the church to remove such plaques. In Hobart’s St Mary’s Cathedral, an artwork honouring the late Catholic priest Philip Green remained on display until 2017, 13 years after he pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting a former altar boy.

Also in Ballarat, survivors complained about the continued honouring of the bishop of Ballarat, James O’Collins, on the town’s buildings. The royal commission heard O’Collins also received complaints about Ridsdale in the 1960s but did nothing to report him to police.

In Western Australia, the Catholic church promised to remove a plaque memorialising the late Floreat priest Peter McCudden when it compensated a woman in 2002 after she complained McCudden abused her when she was 13. It was later revealed the church had simply removed the plaque from a church wall and mounted it metres away in a parish office. The plaque has now been completely removed.

The Blue Knot Foundation executive director, Cathy Kezelman, says the concept of commemorating such clergy is “annihilating for survivors”.

“If churches are really victim-centred and trauma-informed, they will act to remove any public recognition of perpetrators,” Kezelman said. “Without this, survivors will continue to feel that their own needs have not been honoured, nor the impact of the crimes against them truly acknowledged.”

The Safeguarding People Australia founder, Hetty Johnston, says plaques and memorials are trauma inducing for victim-survivors and “flies in the face of common sense, common decency and any kind of empathy”.

But it’s not just advocates who have concerns. The main body advising the church on the protection of children, Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL), says its view is that there should be no commemoration of clergy who have been found to have abused children.

The ACSL chief executive, Ursula Stephens, said many Catholic organisations have already taken steps to remove images and tributes and rename buildings, but commemorative plaques or other permanent records that record historical events were less likely to be removed.

“The national Catholic safeguarding standards ask church entities to provide trauma-informed and victim-centred care to anyone bringing forward a complaint of abuse,” Stephens said in a statement. “It is ACSL’s view that this should preclude honouring anyone who has been found to have abused children or adults with a permanent memorial.”

Peter Poole, a pseudonym, complained more recently of abuse at Marist by Hickman, a claim that was finalised in October.

He struggles to explain his feelings about the plaque, which he says makes it impossible for him to go anywhere near the school.

“I can’t explain how I felt about it,” he said. “It was shock, I guess, that they just had such ignorance about glorifying someone who was a perpetrator.”

Marist and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference were approached for comment.

Complete Article HERE!