A victims rights group criticized the Catholic Diocese of SacramentoTuesday for suing an alleged clergy abuse victim, but church officialssay they are just trying to clarify the law.
In a pressconference in Sacramento, leaders of Survivors Network of those Abusedby Priests (SNAP) accused the diocese of legal maneuvering. The dioceseis challenging the legal standing of a Texas man trying to sue foralleged sexual abuse more than two decades ago.
"Instead of using hardball tactics, they should find the truth," said Nancy Sloan, of Sacramento SNAP.
Sloan and others called the lawsuit "unprecedented" and an "attempt to intimidate other victims."
Thediocese has contended in a suit filed in July in U.S. District Courtthat because the man lives in Texas, the case should be handled on thefederal level.
"This has nothing to do with intimidating a victimand everything to do with getting everybody into the same court," saidKevin Eckery, spokesman for the diocese.
Hector Rubio, 33, ofTexas sued the diocese in March in Sacramento Superior Court, claiminghe was abused by Gerardo Beltran between 1983 and 1986 while the priestserved at St. Dominic Parish in Orland.
Beltran disappeared in1991 after a warrant for his arrest was issued following allegations ofmolesting two young girls. He is believed to be serving as a priest inMexico.
"It's a state court issue, not a federal issue," saidJoseph George, Rubio's attorney. George said the diocese wants it outof the state courts "because our state Legislature has continuouslyextended statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims."
Eckerysaid church officials are following the law. "This man is a resident ofanother state. It belongs in the federal court," he said.
Headded that church officials are not seeking monetary damages and thatthe suit is not meant to intimidate victims of clergy abuse. "We wantto help them," said Eckery.
Sacramento church leaders have saidthey have contacted Mexican church officials over the years andreported their concerns about Beltran.
Sloan said the money spent on the lawsuit could be used on behalf of victims.
"It could help find the fugitive and bring him back to justice."