The Diocese of Stockton's efforts to declare bankruptcy has led to 34 new potential claims of sexual abuse being reported.
The Diocese reported the allegations arose during a three month period of notifying claimants and did not involve any priests serving in an active ministry.
The Diocese made the decision in January to file for bankruptcy after a series of costly sexual abuse settlements left them financially drained.
The 34 new claims have been filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and will now be evaluated by a court-appointed committee of creditors and the Diocese. The filings followed a period of extensive outreach by the Diocese to ensure all potential claimants were aware of the August deadline for submitting sexual abuse claims to the court. The Diocese published notices in more than two-dozen national, regional and local newspapers, and mailed notices to every household on local parish and Catholic school mailing lists.
The information related to the new claims has been ordered by the court to remain confidential.
Bishop Stephen Blaire previously stated the Diocese has sufficient funds to cover the normal operations, but does not have the reserve funds needed to cover the expenses of pending lawsuits stemming from sexual abuse allegations.
The Diocese oversees All Saints University Parish, Sacred Heart Church, and Our Lady of the Assumption of the Portuguese Church, all in Turlock, and St. Anthony’s Church in Hughson. It also includes Sacred Heart’s Turlock schools. The bankruptcy filing is not expected to impact the parishes, schools, and other ministries.
The Diocese of Stockton has paid out more than $14 million over the past 20 years to settle sexual abuse claims. The majority of the claims were lodged against defrocked priest Oliver O’Grady, who spent several years at Turlock’s Sacred Heart Church.
O’Grady has admitted to sexually abusing at least 25 children of all ages and both sexes, and sleeping with two mothers to gain access to their children.
After admitting to sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl in Lodi, his first assignment, O’Grady was sent to Sacred Heart, where he served from 1978 to 1982.
O’Grady was arrested in 1993 in Calaveras County on multiple sexual abuse charges. He pled guilty to four counts, including the molestation of two Turlock brothers, and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He served seven years and was then deported back to Ireland in 2000. In 2012, a court in Ireland sentenced him to three years in prison for possession of child pornography.
Part of the settlement funds already paid by the Diocese was for a sexual abuse claim against a priest and a youth coordinator at Sacred Heart. In 2003, the Diocese agreed to pay $1 million to a 19-year-old man who claimed he was sexually abused by a priest at the church when he was 14 years old. The claim accused Oskar Pelaez, who served as a priest at the church from 1995 to 1998, of molestation. Pelaez pled no contest in 2002 to 12 counts of child molestation and was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.