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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Ruling lets diocese file counter lawsuit

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Religion & Ethics Writer

Circuit Judge Gary Chang yesterday permitted the Roman Catholic Church of Hawai'i to file a counter lawsuit against a woman who two years ago sued the church and a former employee who has admitted molesting the woman's child.

In October 2000, the unnamed plaintiffs, identified only as K.J., and her two sons sued the diocese, Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Bishop Francis DiLorenzo and Manuel Feliciano.

Feliciano, 74, a sacristan who trained altar boys, had pleaded guilty two months earlier to sexually assaulting one of the boys and was sentenced to one year in jail and five years' probation.

In court papers filed earlier, the church said the mother is trying to blame the church for her children's problems, but she was the one who entrusted them to Feliciano, allowing them to sleep overnight at his apartment.

"The plaintiffs are trying to make church responsible," said the diocese's lawyer William Bordner.

Bordner said the church did not know about the abuse at the apartment. The countersuit will allow the church to develop evidence of "events that may have caused or contributed to any problems the children have had, of which there are many."

Attorney Mark Davis, who represents the plaintiffs, yesterday said while the standard for being allowed to file a lawsuit is low, proving the suit's allegations is a different matter.

"We look forward to conducting discovery as to why the church feels that this mother was negligent by simply entrusting her children to the care of the church," said Davis. "This was a family that turned to the church with young children for religious education and support, and they were turned over to a child molester."