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Diocese moves to seal testimony

Times Staff Writer

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange is seeking to permanently seal testimony that Bishop Tod Brown gave this week as part of a civil lawsuit accusing a former assistant basketball coach at Mater Dei High School of sexually abusing a 16-year-old student.

Under the orders of an Orange County Superior Court judge, Brown was deposed Monday by the student’s attorneys, who want to know what he knew about other sexual abuse complaints made against the diocese during the 10 or so years that Jeff Andrade worked at the Santa Ana school as a coach and driving instructor.

Brown’s attorneys immediately sought and won a temporary order sealing the deposition, according to John Manly, an attorney representing the accuser. A full hearing on the sealing motion is scheduled for Thursday, Manly said.

Manly declined to comment further, citing a gag order that restricts him from discussing elements of the case that are not already public.

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Brown and his attorney, Peter Callahan, did not return phone calls. A spokesman for the diocese said he could not comment on pending litigation.

The move to keep the bishop’s deposition private appears to conflict with a promise Brown and his diocese made years ago to comfort their followers and quiet their critics as Catholic churches everywhere were stung by sex scandals.

The pledge, posted on the diocese’s website and known as the “Covenant With the Faithful,” states that Brown and his brother bishops “will be open, honest and forthright in our public statements to the media and consistent and transparent in our communications with the Catholics of our Diocese.”

The diocese also agreed in 2004, under a $100-million settlement with an estimated 90 alleged molestation victims, to make its files public.

More than 10,000 pages of letters, handwritten notes, memos and other documents detailing church actions were eventually released from the personnel files of 15 priests and teachers. Files for eight others were not released.

Mater Dei is one of the largest parochial schools in the country and is known nationwide as an academic and athletic powerhouse. It also has been plagued by sexual abuse allegations.

Nine men sued the diocese in 2003, alleging they were molested by Msgr. Michael A. Harris, a principal of the high school and one of the Orange County’s most recognized Catholic educators. Harris left the priesthood in 2001 after the Los Angeles and Orange County dioceses paid a $5.2-million settlement to one of his alleged victims.

Another lawsuit, filed that same year, alleged that pedophiles at Mater Dei preyed on students in the 1970s.

In the current case, a woman identified only as Jane C.R. Doe accuses Andrade of molesting her beginning in the mid-1990s when she was 16, after she began taking a driver education class from him. They had sex over a period of about 18 months, possibly hundreds of times, in the gymnasium, classrooms, his house and several times in a Las Vegas hotel room, according to the lawsuit.

Doe’s lawyers have argued that the school administration reacted slowly to evidence that indicated there was a sexual relationship, and that other allegations of misconduct could show a pattern of high school administrators covering up sexual abuse.

In his deposition taken as part of the lawsuit, Andrade admitted to having sex with Doe. He was fired in 1997 after Mater Dei officials suspected he had had a sexual relationship with the student. Police investigated in 1997 but no charges were filed.

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christine.hanley@latimes.com


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