Woman, 62, Claims Affair with Pastor

By Denis Cuff
Contra Costa Times [California]
Downloaded June 12, 2003

A Pleasant Hill pastor openly critical of Catholic priests' sexual misconduct has been sued by a woman who says he had an affair with her for 38 years.

The Rev. Brian Joyce's secret relationship with the woman contributed to her depression, hospitalization and suicide attempts, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday.

SueDee McClelland, the mother of four children, first came to Joyce in 1963 in Oakland for counseling about personal problems, she said in the suit.

Joyce started an affair the next year that continued until spring of last year when she broke it off after realizing she had been exploited rather than helped, the lawsuit said.

"He abused his position of authority, and the church, far as I can tell, has done nothing about it," Steven Cavalli, an Oakland attorney representing McClelland, said Wednesday.

The church sees the case differently.

A seven-person review board for the Oakland Diocese concluded the relationship was consensual and not abusive, said Sister Barbara Flannery, chancellor for the diocese.

Flannery said she anticipates that Joyce will stay on as pastor of Christ the King Church in Pleasant Hill, where he is known as a popular priest in the 4,000-family parish.

Bishop John Cummins, who was out of town Wednesday, will make the decision about Joyce's assignment

"This is a man with a spotless record," Flannery said. "There are no other complaints here. There is no pattern of predatory behavior. There is no one at risk."

Joyce has been an outspoken advocate for the Catholic Church to deal openly with priests' sexual abuse of children. He led workshops on the subject last year at Christ the King.

Joyce and the Oakland Diocese are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

McClelland, 62, seeks undetermined damages for negligence, inflection of distress, fraud and breach of fiduciary duties.

McClelland's attorneys contend that Joyce inflicted long-lasting psychological damage by having sex with her instead of guiding her out of problems with depression and four marriages.

She reported the relationship to the Catholic Church last year after watching a man on television tell how he contemplated suicide because he had been molested by a priest.

When McClelland and Joyce allegedly started their relationship in 1964, she lived in the parish for St. Augustine Church in Oakland. Joyce was an assistant pastor there after recently graduating from the seminary.

The relationship allegedly continued through several moves by both Joyce and McClelland


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.