Area Bishop 'Deeply Sorry' for Delay in Reporting Priest's Abuse Admission

By David Ryan
Napa Valley Register [Santa Rosa CA]
August 13, 2006

Bishop Daniel Walsh of the Santa Rosa Diocese of the Catholic Church issued an apology to parishioners in Napa this weekend for waiting four days to notify authorities when a Sonoma priest admitted to Walsh he had had sexual relations with young boys.

Under the law, Walsh was required to notify authorities as soon as he knew. During the delay, the priest, Xavier Ochoa, is believed to have fled to Mexico. No victims have come forward from Napa County.

"As the district attorney reviews the actions of all involved in this horrible situation, my admission of failing to report the case immediately could cause me to be charged with a misdemeanor having the potential penalty of six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine," Walsh wrote in a message to parishioners. "If I am found guilty for not taking immediate action, I will accept whatever punishment is imposed."

Late last month, Walsh told the Press Democrat he delayed notifying authorities to make sure Ochoa "didn't function as a priest, so he didn't have access to kids."

In his message to parishioners, Walsh admitted he used the time to attempt to contact the Diocese lawyer.

"In attempting to consult first with our diocesan attorney, I made a mistake," he said. "I failed to be guided by my own precepts for decisive action and for doing the right thing. I am deeply sorry for this, and for the tarnish it has placed on the reputation of the church and the clergy, as well as for the questions it has raised regarding our credibility and the church's policy of zero tolerance of sexual abuse."

Walsh said he did not wait in order to allow Ochoa to escape. He said he came forward with his apology to avoid further harm to the church and to restore faith in the clergy.

"That is my mission here, and I will not allow anything to sidetrack it, including my own failings," he wrote. "I can assure you that it is a mistake that I will not repeat. I will ensure that in the future, all mandated reporters in our church obey the law or be removed from service."


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