SALINAS, Calif. (KION) Attorneys from Jeff Anderson & Associates announced Wednesday that Palma High School and the Diocese of Monterey are being sued for alleged clergy sexual assault.
The plaintiff said in the lawsuit that they were sexually assaulted by Fr. Gerald Funcheon around 1984 or 1985 at the school and that the school regularly harbored sexually abusive clergy.
Funcheon is accused of sexually assaulting children in several states- including Indiana, Minnesota, Hawaii and California- and lawyers said he admitted to sexually assaulting at least 18 children. Lawyers said Church documents show that number may be as high as 50. Several of the alleged assaults reportedly happened while he was working at Palma.
According to the lawsuit, Funcheon's superiors received reports that he sexually assaulted children and received therapy for his problems before being transferred to Palma. While there, lawyers said he had nearly unlimited access to children and abused students during school-sponsored trips and activities.
The lawsuit also accuses the school of employing other clergy accused of sexual abuse, including: Br. Jerome "Jerry" Heustis, Br. Robert Brouillette, Br. Marcos Capistran Chavira, Br. Frank Luke Dalton and Fr. Lawrence M. Spellen.
Heustis was the principal at Palma between 1976 and 1982. He is accused of abusing at least one student there.
Brouillette taught at Palma between 1964 and 1968, and was accused of sexually abusing children in several states. In 1998, he was arrested for solicitation and child pornography. Lawyers said they believe he is now a registered sex offender.
Chavira was accused of abusing at least one Palma student.
Dalton was at Palma between 1964 and 1969 and again between 1988 and 1999. He was accused of abusing a student at a school in Michigan, but during his time in Monterey County, lawyers said he reportedly tutored, counseled and held summer camps for children of migrant laborers near Gonzales.
Spellen was at Palma between 1977 and 1979 and again between 1981 and 1982. He was accused of sexually abusing at least one boy at a school in Hawaii.
The Diocese of Monterey said in a statement, in part:
"We are working hard and remain committed to assure our community that we are making every effort to ensure the safety of children and young people under our care as well as assist victims of sexual misconduct. This is our top priority. "
In the statement, the Diocese said Funcheon came with a letter of good standing and was supervised by Palma High School, which is independent of the Diocese.
The Diocese also said that it trains all staff to report child abuse, requires those who work with children to undergo fingerprinting and training, trains those who work with children to follow the Code of Pastoral Conduct, turns over cases of suspected child abuse to law enforcement, trains children to stay safe and what to do if they are abused, keeps a Pastoral Outreach Coordinator to respond to victims of sexual misconduct and goes through an Independent Review Board to advise the Bishop on child abuse.
This lawsuit is possible because of the California Child Victims Act, a new law that extends the statute of limitations and gives a three-year window for potential sexual abuse survivors to bring lawsuits in cases that were barred by the statute of limitations previously.