As attorneys announced a lawsuit Tuesday against the Diocese of Orange on behalf of a man who says he was molested by a priest in Placentia when he was 8 to 10 years old and demanded to know the whereabouts of his alleged abuser, the Diocese reported the clergyman died almost a year ago.
Attorney Jeff Anderson and several other lawyers from the same firm held a news conference in Santa Ana to discuss the lawsuit filed Monday in Orange County Superior Court against the Diocese, Bishop Kevin Vann and Father John Ruhl. The attorneys said they had not been able to locate Ruhl and demanded that the Diocese provide his whereabouts.
The Diocese responded by issuing a statement that said Ruhl died in Chicago last April 7, and that a list of abusive priests was revised in November to reflect the death.
The Diocese statement said Ruhl, who became part of the Diocese of Orange on April 1, 1983, “is on our list of credibly accused priests posted on our website for public viewing.”
Ruhl was placed on inactive leave on June 25, 1992, and was “prohibited from performing pastoral duties,” according to the Diocese.
The Diocese takes “all and any allegations of abuse seriously,” but declined additional comment on the lawsuit because of a policy regarding pending litigation.
The Diocese pointed out it was the first in the state in August 2016 “to voluntarily release the names of credibly accused priests who have been accused of abuse and misconduct.”
Also, since 2002, the Diocese has had an independent oversight review board tasked with providing “advice to the bishop as to how to proceed in individual claims of childhood and adult sexual abuse.” The review board is “made up primarily of lay people, including a physician, lawyers, a retired judge, former FBI personnel, a psychologist, law enforcement personnel and a school principal.”
The statement said the bishop “understands and appreciates the righteous anger expressed toward those who have failed to follow due process and the demands of accountability. He is committed to join with his brother bishops to address and help heal these failings.”
Attorney Mike Reck said the news conference was held “to call upon the Diocese of Orange and Bishop Vann to make known the full history and whereabouts of Father Ruhl.”
The abuse of Ruhl’s accuser, who is listed as John Doe in the complaint, happened at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and school in Placentia from 1988 to 1990, according to the lawsuit.
Reck alleged that Ruhl also “abused other children. We don’t know how many. We don’t know where,” calling the clergyman “a public safety nightmare to these communities in Orange County.”
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