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Church in Crisis

Archdiocese settles suit claiming retaliation

The San Francisco archdiocese has settled out of court a civil suit by one of its priests, Fr. John Conley, who claimed the archdiocese suspended him for reporting a possible clerical sexual abuse incident in a parish rectory five years ago.

The settlement came as jury selection was about to begin in the trial.

In November 1997, Conley witnessed what he termed a “wrestling match” between a priest, Fr. James Aylward, and a teenage rectory worker.

Conley went to the archdiocese and reported it, where he was told to immediately report it to the district attorney as suspected child abuse.

Conley was placed on administrative leave for what the archdiocese termed unrelated behavioral problems.

Conley sued, claiming the mandated leave was retaliatory, which the archdiocese denied. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Aylward later admitted touching boys for sexual pleasure, and the archdiocese paid the youth $750,000.

In its Nov. 25 statement, the archdiocese said subsequent revelations “confirmed Fr. Conley’s instincts regarding the incident were correct and he was right in what he did in reporting the incident to the police.”

The statement said the archdiocese encourages its priests to follow the law.

Conley, 58, ordained nine years ago, will retire from active ministry as a priest in good standing with a fully funded pension plan.

-- Arthur Jones

National Catholic Reporter, December 13, 2002