Sonoma County DA Urged to Investigate Catholic Diocese

July 7, 2006

Santa Rosa, Calif. (KCBS) -- The Sonoma County District Attorney's office is being urged to investigate the Catholic Diocese following another case of alleged clergy sexual abuse.

KCBS' Mark Seelig reported that members of SNAP, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, delivered a two-page letter to the District Attorney's office, asking the office to conduct a thorough investigation into the role the Catholic Diocese played in the case of Rev. Xavier Ochoa.

The reverend was accused of molesting young parishioners at St. Francis Solano Parish in Sonoma.

Rev. Ochoa was removed from the ministry after voluntarily admitting to inappropriate behavior with a minor to Bishop Daniel Walsh in late April.

The bishop then reported the abuse to authorities on May 1, but by that time, Ochoa had fled to Mexico.

SNAP Spokeswoman Mary Grant said there are two crimes involved, the alleged molestation and the perceived cover-up by the church.

"We believe with their reckless disregard to children's safety allowed Ochoa to flee this country."

Assistant District Attorney Christine Cook said ten felony counts have been filed against Ochoa, and a search is currently underway for him in Mexico.

As for allegations the church violated priest abuse reporting laws, Reporter Mark Seelig said that's still up for debate.

New laws in place since the church sexual abuse scandal came to light state that abuse should be reported immediately.

SNAP's spokeswoman said that didn't happen.

However, Bishop Walsh who is on vacation, told parishioners in a letter that a report was filed, "with reasonable speed."


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