Noe Valley Voice March 2012

S.F. Archdiocese Dropped as Defendant in Abuse Case

By Corrie M. Anders

The Archbishop of San Francisco has been dropped from a civil lawsuit, in which a man alleged that a priest who once served at St. Paul’s Church in Noe Valley sexually assaulted him in San Jose.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn agreed with the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco that the priest was not a part of its ministry when the alleged abuse occurred, and that the alleged victim never had any relationship with the local church body.

“…As the prior and or subsequent employer of the alleged perpetrator, the Archbishop of San Francisco had no duty to prevent the harm allegedly suffered by plaintiff,” Kahn wrote in his Feb. 2 opinion.

The lawsuit maintained that the Archdiocese was aware that the priest allegedly had a decades-long history of sexual abuse against minors in other cities, and had quietly allowed him to relocate to St. Paul’s Parish at Valley and Church streets. The priest’s presence, the suit contended, put at risk students who attended the parish’s K-8 school next door to the church.

Matthew Frazer, a former altar boy, filed the suit Aug. 9, 2011, against Father Don Flickinger, now retired and a resident of Fresno. Frazer claimed the priest molested him in 2001, when Frazer was 13 years old.

Flickinger, 75, is a veteran priest who has served at parishes in Fresno and San Jose. Two years ago, Flickinger began living at St. Paul’s, where according to the church, he had no official duties but occasionally said mass. The Archdiocese last March asked him to leave.

Tim Hale, Frazer’s San Diego-based attorney, said he would appeal Kahn’s ruling. The decision does not affect other defendants in Frazer’s lawsuit—four Catholic institutions in San Jose and Fresno where Flickinger previously served.