Accused Priest May Have Fled the Country
Faces 10 Counts of Child Sex Abuse

By Heather Ishimaru
KGO [Sonoma CA]
July 7, 2006

July 7 - KGO - The Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese is at the center of yet another priest sexual abuse scandal. This time the accused priest is believed to have fled the country. Now activists are demanding Catholic officials be prosecuted for delaying a report on the abuse.

The furor over priest sex abuse cases in recent years seems to have had little preventative effect in Sonoma. A 12-year-old boy is the victim in an April incident and critics belive that Catholic officials' delay in reporting the accusations gave the priest time to get away.

Sixty-seven-year-old Reverend Xavier Ochoa faces 10 felony counts of child sexual abuse involving three victims. Investigators are looking for him in Mexico.

Ochoa was a priest at Sonoma's St. Francis Solano Parish. Published reports say he admitted to sexual misconduct.

Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, delivered a letter to the San Francisco Diocese today. They say the Catholic officials who reported the abuse should also be prosecuted for waiting four days to notify law enforcement.

Wayne Presley, SNAP: "At least five high-ranking Santa Rosa Catholic officials have failed. They have failed morally and they have failed legally. The question now is, what is the San Francisco Archbishop do about it?"

No one from the San Francisco Archdiocese could be reached for comment. Santa Rosa Diocese Bishop Daniel Walsh is one of the officials singled out by SNAP. He could not be reached for comment today, but he has told parishioners it was reported "with reasonable speed."

The District Attorney says law enforcement would have to do an investigation and file a report, but that's unlikely.

Sheriff's Department Sgt. Dennis O'Leary says "everyone wants blood on this one, but I don't think we're going to pursue it unless we hear they knew about it for a month or something."

The Santa Rosa Diocese has a miserable track record of priest abuse cases. As of two years ago, it had $19 million dollars worth of claims to pay out to scores of victims abused over a span of 40 years.

Bishop Walsh was preceded by Bishop Patrick Zieman who resigned in disgrace after sexual misconduct and severe financial mismanagement of the diocese.

In addition to the current 12-year-old victim, the charges against Ochoa involve claims of abuse from someone from 12 years ago and another victim whose claims of abuse date back to 1988.


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