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The sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic diocese of Orange is an important chapter in the Catholic sexual abuse scandal in the United States.

Allegations of sexual misconduct

Allegations against bishop Driscoll

During his tenure as an auxiliary bishop in the diocese of Orange, Michael Patrick Driscoll accepted and transferred priests despite reports of sexual misconduct.[1]

In 1983, he received a letter detailing allegations of abuse against another priest, who was sent to counseling but whose case was never reported to Child Protective Services as required by law; when authorities asked for the letter, Driscoll claimed the victim's mother had asked for it to be destroyed, which the mother denied.[1]

He later admitted that his priorities were "horribly misplaced" in handling these allegations, and stated, "...I would never hurt anyone intentionally, especially children."[2]

Allegations against Bishop Tod Brown

In 1997, Bishop Tod Brown was accused of having sexually abused a twelve-year-old boy in 1965, while Brown was a pastor in Bakersfield[3]. However, following a preliminary investigation, Church officials dismissed the claims, saying, "[Brown's life] does not reveal any inappropriate behavior..." He denied the allegation, declaring in 2007[4], "I've never abused any person sexually or any other way."

Allegations against Michael A. Harris

In 2003, nine men sued the diocese alleging that Msgr. Michael A. Harris, their former principal, sexually assaulted them while they attended Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana or Santa Margarita High School in Rancho Santa Margarita. Harris quit the priesthood in 2001 after the Los Angeles and Orange dioceses paid $5.2 million to one of his alleged victims.[5]


On January 3, 2005 Bishop Tod Brown of the Diocese of Orange apologized to 87 alleged victims of sexual abuse and announced a settlement of $100 million following two years of mediation. The suits alleged sexual misconduct on the part of 30 priests, 2 nuns, 1 religious brother, and 10 lay personnel into the 1980s; 11 claims were against Eleuterio Ramos and 9 against Siegfried Widera, both deceased (Widera by suicide).[6] About 25 cases involved abuse dating before the creation of the Diocese of Orange, one to 1936.[7]

It was the first settlement in California arising from the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and remained the largest settlement (though not the largest judgment) arising out of the scandal until the Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced a $660 million settlement in July 15, 2007. About half of the sum was covered by liability insurance.[8]

Impact of settlement on the diocese

The diocese had sharply cut costs to prepare for the settlement in the preceding months. These steps enabled the Diocese of Orange to agree to the settlement without closing parishes, or other severe measures taken by other U.S. dioceses in dealing with the scandal.[9][10]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Flaccus, Gillian (2005-05-20). "2 in scandal still hold church posts". The Boston Globe.
  2. Galvin, Andrew (2005-05-29). "Victims weren't first priority". The Orange County Register.
  3. Orange County Weekly. Nailed? Bishop Tod Brown and His Undisclosed Molestation Accusation April 24, 2007
  4. Los Angeles Times. ‘97 abuse claim named O.C. bishop September 14, 2007
  5. Guccione, Jean (2005-01-04). "Orange Bishop to Apologize in Huge Abuse Settlement". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  6. Grace, Francis (2004-12-03). "California Diocese Settles Abuse Cases". CBS News. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  7. "Orange Diocese to release files in $100 million settlement". The Tidings Online. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  8. Lobdell, William; Guccione, Jean (2005-05-18). "Orange Diocese Gives Details on Sex Abuse". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  9. Associated Press (2007-10-08). "New Sex Abuse Settlement Renews Scandal for Orange County Roman Catholic Diocese". Fox News.,2933,300284,00.html. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  10. "Current scope of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy". 2005-01-04. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
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