Clergy Abuse Survivors Sue Two California Catholic Dioceses
Survivors filed lawsuits against the Dioceses of Fresno and San Diego. The California “look back” window has given these survivors more time to seek justice.
Since 2002, more than 1,000 sexual abuse survivors have filed lawsuits against the Catholic dioceses in California. In June 2021, three more survivors brought lawsuits against the dioceses. Two survivors sued the Diocese of Fresno, and one survivor filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of San Diego.
In the lawsuits, the survivors name their abusers and the dioceses as defendants. The lawsuits accuse the dioceses of ignoring or concealing incidents of clergy sexual abuse.
Since 2005, the California dioceses have paid more than $1 billion to clergy abuse survivors. Under California’s “look back” window, these latest survivors suing the dioceses may also find legal justice and compensation.
Abused by a Priest in California?
You May Have Rights to Legal Compensation
Survivors File Lawsuits Against The Fresno Diocese
On June 9, 2021, two men filed lawsuits against the Diocese of Fresno. The survivors accused former priest Craig Harrison of child sexual abuse in the early 1990s.
One survivor alleged the assault occurred at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Bakersfield in 1990. Harrison allegedly lured the victim into the church rectory and assaulted them. The victim was 13 at the time of the abuse.
Harrison allegedly abused the second survivor over a period of three years. The abuse began in 1993 when the victim was 15 years old. The abuse occurred in Firebaugh.
The lawsuits include accusations of negligence against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno. They state the diocese either should have known about the sexual abuse, or church leaders knew about the abuse and concealed it.
Fresno Diocese Releases List Of Accused Priests
Harrison is one of many clergy members from the Diocese of Fresno facing credible allegations of sexual abuse.
On August 10, 2021, the diocese released a list of credibly accused clergy members. The list names more than 60 accused clergy members across eight counties in California. The incidents of abuse related to these accused clergy members cover more than 50 years of the diocese’s history. The release of this list gives many survivors hope for justice for the first time.
The Diocese of Fresno was one of the last dioceses in the state to release a list of accused clergy members. The majority of California dioceses released similar lists between 2018 and 2019.
Visit our national database to see the full list of accused clergy abuse in the United States >
Abuse Survivor Sues San Diego Priest
On June 8, 2021, Beau Potter filed a similar lawsuit naming Father Ramon Marrufo and the Diocese of San Diego. Potter, 54, chose to file the lawsuit under his name “because it’s important the perpetrators know the pain they caused me.”
The lawsuit accuses Marrufo of sexually abusing Potter over the span of several years. The abuse began in the 1970s when Potter was a second-grade student attending a San Diego County school. Potter also alleges he was later abused by a second, unnamed priest of the Diocese of San Diego.
The Diocese San Bernardino is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, as are the two schools Potter attended. According to Potter and his attorneys, the Diocese of San Diego was aware of Marrufo’s abuse for more than a year. However, the diocese failed to notify the schools and parishes where Marrufo was stationed.
“I don’t want any more children being hurt and to suffer from the pain and agony that I suffered through in my young life and into adulthood. This is something that can be stopped and it needs to stop with these bishops calling out these priests.”
California’s “Look Back” Window Closes In 2022
The Fresno and San Diego survivors are now in their 40s and 50s. It has taken these individuals decades to seek legal action.
Experts have found that many victims choose to delay reporting their abuse. Because of this, many survivors of abuse miss their opportunity to seek legal action. Recognizing this delay in reporting, lawmakers in California, and many other states, have expanded the legal rights of survivors.
In 2019, California lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218), also known as the California Child Victims Act. This new law extended the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits against those accused of child sexual abuse.
A statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal deadline. SOLs vary based on the jurisdiction, the crime and the intended legal action (i.e., criminal charges versus a civil claim).
Additionally, AB 218 opened a three-year “look back” window. It revives all expired civil claims of child sexual abuse for a period of three years. Within this “look back” window, all California abuse survivors may file civil lawsuits against perpetrators or institutions involved in their abuse.
The California “look back” window opened on January 1, 2020. The “look back” window will close on December 31, 2022. Survivors considering legal action should speak with an experienced attorney today to learn more about filing a lawsuit before the deadline expires.
Diocese of Fresno. (N.D.) List of Clergy. Retrieved November 16, 2021.
Kotowski, J. (2021, June 9). Attorney says ‘predator’ Craig Harrison sexually assaulted 2 minors, one at Bakersfield church. KGET.
Ray, J. (2021, August 10). Fresno diocese releases list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse. Los Angeles Times.
(2021, June 8). Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Abuse by Former Diocese of San Diego Priest. Times of San Diego.