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  Home :: 2006 November :: Catholic bishop accepts counseling, avoids possible charge for late reporting of clergy abuse

Catholic bishop accepts counseling, avoids possible charge for late reporting of clergy abuse


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON(CNS) – Bishop Daniel F. Walsh of Santa Rosa, Calif., agreed Nov. 20 toenroll in a diversion counseling program in lieu of facing possiblecriminal charges for his delay in reporting allegations that one of hispriests sexually abused a minor.

Bishop Walsh publicly apologized for failing toreport the alleged abuse to authorities immediately and said he wouldaccept "whatever punishment is imposed."

In other recent developments concerning clergy sex abuse:

- Ohio's nine dioceses have joined to set up a $3 million fundfor independent counseling for victims of childhood abuse at the handsof Ohio church personnel.

- The Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pa., announced a new spiritual outreach program for abuse victims.

- The Diocese of Wilmington, Del., released the names of 20 priests believed to have abused children.

- A defrocked Denver priest facing numerous abuse allegations died while vacationing in Mexico.

- A suspended priest of the Diocese of Allentown, Pa., who wasconvicted of embezzlement and sexual abuse of minors, was put back inprison for violating the terms of his probation.

In Santa Rosa, news reports said that Father Xavier Ochoa ofSt. Francis Solano Parish in Sonoma, Calif., admitted to Bishop WalshApril 27 or 28 that he had sexually molested a child. The bishopsuspended him immediately. Bishop Walsh notified diocesan attorney DanGalvin on April 29, which was a Saturday. Galvin reportedly had hissecretary call Child Protective Services on Monday, May 1, and thebishop's first personal contact with authorities was May 2.

In the meantime Father Ochoa, 68, had fled the area. He isbelieved to be living in Mexico. In June authorities issued an arrestwarrant, charging him with 11 counts of child sex abuse involving threeboys.

The Sonoma County district attorney's office investigatedpossible misdemeanor charges against Bishop Walsh, but said Nov. 20that since he has admitted wrongdoing and has no prior record he iseligible for the diversion program, which involves four months ofcounseling. The program is tailored to the individual case and couldinclude therapy or community service.

In general diversion programs divert nonviolent, adult andjuvenile criminal offenders away from traditional prosecution but stillhold offenders accountable for their actions through a supervised,well-structured program.

In a diocesan news release Bishop Walsh said, "I welcome anopportunity to conclude this phase of the matter and will complete theprogram as presented to me as quickly as possible." Upon successfulcompletion of the program, any pending charges will be waived, therelease said.

In Ohio, the Catholic conference, an organization of thebishops of the state's eight Latin dioceses and one Eastern-ritediocese, posted information on the new counseling assistance fund onits Web site.

The assistance "is directed toward those who are reluctant tocontact the church for help," it said. It said that those eligible forcounseling through the fund may "obtain services from any mental healthprovider licensed in the person's state of residence."

The Pittsburgh Diocese decided to launch a spiritual outreachprogram for victims, in addition to its counseling and supportprograms, as a result of a request by an abuse victim to then-BishopDonald W. Wuerl, who is now archbishop of Washington.

The victim and diocesan staff worked together to developmaterials for the program, called "To Renew What Is Broken," and thematerials were sent out to all parishes in November.

Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli of Wilmington said he wasreleasing the names of priests with "admitted, corroborated orotherwise substantiated" sex-abuse allegations against them.

Of the 20, two were accused of abuse in other dioceses; 10 of the 18 accused of abuse in the Wilmington Diocese are dead.

Bishop Saltarelli said one reason he decided to release all thenames was the recent case of Father Francis G. DeLuca, 77, who wasremoved from ministry in 1993 and allowed to retire in his hometown,Syracuse, N.Y. Father DeLuca was recently arrested there and chargedwith sexually abusing a Syracuse boy, now 18, for several years whenthe boy was 12 or 13 until he was 17. Bishop Saltarelli said he willnow ask Rome to laicize Father DeLuca.

Former Denver priest Harold R. White, 73, who was removed fromministry in 1993 and laicized in 2004, died of a heart attack Nov. 14while vacationing in Cancun, Mexico. More than half the 26 sexual abuselawsuits that the Denver Archdiocese is facing involve allegationsagainst White.

His death was not expected to have a significant impact on thelawsuits, which typically rest on whether church authorities left apriest in ministry when they knew or should have known of hismisconduct.

In Pennsylvania, President Judge William Baldwin of SchuylkillCounty Court revoked the probation of a suspended priest, Father RonaldJ. Yarrosh, who was out of prison after serving a partial sentence forsexually abusing children and embezzling more than $23,000 from St.Ambrose Parish in Schuylkill Haven.

"You should not be out in the community, just waiting for anincident to happen," Baldwin said after Father Yarrosh admitted incourt Nov. 21 that he had violated conditions of probation by drinkingalcohol, buying child pornography and taking the 7-year-old daughter ofa New York City stripper to lunch.

He sentenced Father Yarrosh, 57, to four to 10 years in stateprison. The priest has been suspended since 2004, when police,investigating suspected embezzlement, uncovered a huge cache of childpornography in his rectory, on his computer and in a storage unit herented.



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Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia