Sex Abuse Suit Filed in TX Diocese Under L.A.'s Next Archbishop
The lawsuit alleges a priest in the San Antonio archdiocese sexually abused a teen at gunpoint.
Archbishop Jose Gomez (Archdiocese of San Antonio)
A West Texas teen filed the lawsuit Thursday alleging repeated sexual assaults by the Rev. John M. Fiala. The teen claims the church's leadership should have known the priest was abusive.
The lawsuit accuses the priest of repeatedly sexually assaulting the teen, including twice forcing him to have sex at gunpoint when Fiala was the pastor at Sacred Heart of Mary Parish in the remote community of Rocksprings. The lawsuit alleges the incidents occurred in 2007 and 2008, during Gomez's tenure overseeing a swath of south and west Texas.
The teen's attorney, Tom Rhodes, said Fiala was "moved around quite a bit" and they believe the church "knew he was a serious problem."
Fiala has not been charged.
Archdiocese spokesman Pat Rodgers said he could not comment directly on the litigation, but said in a prepared statement that when Edwards County authorities told the archdiocese in 2008 that they were investigating accusations of custodial interference -- not sexual abuse -- by Fiala, the priest was removed from ministry and the parish was told about the investigation.
The lawsuit comes just days after Gomez, who heads the San Antonio archdiocese, was named as Cardinal Roger Mahony's successor.
Gomez is scheduled to be formally introduced to parishioners in May. He is slated to take over the nation's most populous archdiocese next year when Mahony turns 75. Under church rules, bishops must resign at age 75.
During his 25-year tenure in Los Angeles, Mahony has been dogged by the clergy abuse scandal.
In 2007, Mahony agreed to a record-setting $660 million settlement with more than 500 alleged victims of clergy abuse.
A federal grand jury is also investigating how the Archdiocese of Los Angeles handled claims of abuse, and has subpoenaed several witnesses, including a former Los Angeles priest convicted of child molestation and a monsignor who served as vicar for clergy under Mahony.