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Ventura County man presses forward with lawsuit against state Catholic bishops

A Camarillo man who alleges he was sexually assaulted by a priest is pushing forward with his lawsuit against the state’s Catholic archdioceses and dioceces.

Attorneys with the law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates held a press conference at the Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel on Monday, stating they can continue working on plaintiff Thomas Emens’ nuisance case against the California Catholic Conference and the Catholic archdioces and dioceses in the state after a ruling made by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michelle Williams on April 17.

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Emens filed his suit against California’s archbishops and bishops on Oct. 2, 2018, and is seeking that the Catholic church release information about sexual offenders within each diocese and how cases of sexual abuse were handled.

The judge’s ruling two weeks ago dismissed five of the eight claims made against California archdioceses and dioceses.

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The California Catholic Conference issued a statement on the ruling.

“Victim-survivors such as Mr. Emens are rightfully angry for the harm that was inflicted by members of the church in the past,” according to the statement. “That is why the Catholic church in California has taken responsibility not just in words but in action and will continue to take the necessary steps to support victim-survivors, cooperate with law enforcement and help make our parishes, schools and ministries safe places for all.”

However, attorneys Jeff Anderson and Mike Reck said the remaining charges have given their firm a path to the pretrial discovery process or the gathering of evidence from the dioceses.

“Church officials have lied for years, and we know they cannot be trusted to police themselves and self-regulate,” Reck said. “This ruling is a landmark that paves the way for more accountability, for more justice and for safer kids.”

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Emens, originally from Anaheim, claims he was assaulted by Msgr. Thomas Joseph Mohan when he was 10 years old.

While he considers the court ruling a victory for his case, Emens said the lawsuit is more about future generations in the church.

“It’s not just about me, it’s about all the other victims out there, it’s about the children out there that are at risk,” Emens said. “If you’re a victim-survivor out there, this is a huge day for all of us.”

Reck said it is unknown if or when the case will go to trial or if all dioceses will appeal the remaining charges. He said he’s aware of one diocese that is planning to appeal the court’s decision.

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