Church may countersue in molestation
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Roman Catholic Church of Hawai'i is asking a state judge for permission to file a counter lawsuit against a woman who two years ago sued the church and a former employee who admitted molesting the woman's two children.
The woman's lawsuit was filed in October 2000 against the Roman Catholic Church, Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Bishop Francis DiLorenzo and Manuel Feliciano. Feliciano, 74, a former laity official who trained altar boys for Sts. Peter and Paul Church, pleaded guilty in August 2000 to sexual assault of the boys and was sentenced to one year in prison and five years of probation.
In her lawsuit, the mother, identified as K.J., said that Feliciano used his position of religious authority to persuade and influence the boys to commit sexual acts in 1994 and 1995. The lawsuit also charged that the church and DiLorenzo conspired to conceal information about Feliciano's sexual conduct with minors. The mother is seeking an undetermined amount in damages.
But in a request filed by attorneys for the Catholic Church, the diocese is asking a circuit judge for permission to file a counterclaim and require the plaintiffs to indemnify the church and reimburse it for damages caused by Feliciano.
The church contends that the mother contributed to damages suffered by her sons.
In court papers supporting the request, the church accuses her of allowing the molestations by sending her sons, then 7 and 10, to sleep at Feliciano's home. K.J. also engaged in "explicit sexual behavior in the presence of her young children," abused substances, and was an unfit mother who abandoned her young children to state custody, the court papers stated.
The two boys, the church stated in the papers, also have criminal records. The older boy has been convicted of sexual assaults against his brother and others, and remains incarcerated, the church said.
Attorney Mark Davis, who represents the plaintiffs, said the family's problems were the result of the molestations: "The plaintiffs contend that their family lives have been devastated by the abuse suffered at the hands of the church."
Diocese spokesman Patrick Downes said yesterday he could not comment on the pending litigation. But the diocese issued a statement saying it was not responsible for Feliciano's actions.
"Manuel Feliciano was found guilty of sexual abuse in 2000 and he alone is liable for it. The abuse was not caused by the diocese, nor was the diocese in any way a party to it," the statement said. "The diocese cannot be held responsible for the criminal conduct of a worker such as Mr. Feliciano."
A hearing on the diocese's request is set for April 8 at 3 p.m. before Circuit Judge Gary Chang.