Sex Abuse by Priests in California Catholic Diocese 

Herman Law empowers victims by giving them a voice. Our lawyers work directly with victims and their families to provide the tools and assistance needed to make decisions regarding filing a civil suit.

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Child Sexual Abuse By Clergy In California

Child sexual abuse is a horrifying act affecting children, families, and communities around the globe. Not receiving justice for an abuser’s wrong and vile actions can keep victims struggling with what happened to them and feeling hopeless.  

Accordingly, the California Child Victims Act (AB-218) went into effect on January 1, 2020, helping dozens of child sexual abuse survivors of the San Diego Catholic Diocese come forward to report their abuse. 

AB 218 allows child sex abuse victims to file lawsuits against their abusers even if the abuse happened decades ago. San Diego victims subject to this Act reported abuse that dates back to the 1960s. This type of crime can have lifelong repercussions on the victims’ mental, emotional and physical well-being. 

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Current Clergy Sex Abuse Case Happenings in California 

In 2018, the LA Times reported that they would be investigating the abuse and the cover-ups that occurred in the Catholic Church, specifically how the leadership handled sex abuse accusations in the past. 

That same year, the California Diocese added the following eight priests to the list of those accused of abuse by the diocese: 

Reverend Jose Chavarin 

Reverend J. Patrick Foley 

Reverend Richard Houck 

Reverend Paolino Montagna 

Monsignor Mark Medear 

Reverend George Lally 

Reverend Michael French 

Reverend Raymond Etienne 

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego commented in their statement regarding new lawsuits: “Regardless of the legal issues involved, we have a moral obligation to provide assistance to any victim-survivor of that abuse and we would urge their attorney to contact us so that counseling can be arranged at our expense. There are no prior conditions and the offer of counseling stands regardless of any lawsuit against the diocese.” 

Since January 2020, more victims have filed lawsuits against the Catholic Diocese of San Diego and the priests that abused them. The church created a victim compensation fund in the fall of 2019, but victims’ funds fall short of expected fair compensation. The church expects more child sexual abuse survivors to come forward and file lawsuits within the next few years with the establishment of AB 218. Victims have until January 2023 to file their claims. 

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What Are the Long-Term Effects of Sex Abuse?

A person who suffers from sexual abuse often endures long-term mental and emotional problems. Victims of sex abuse may have difficulties maintaining normal relationships and suffer from sexual dysfunction. Sometimes, it takes years of therapy to heal. 

The Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Foundation shares the lifelong physical and emotional effects of sexual abuse: 



Complex PTSD 

Personality Disorders 




Disassociative disorders 

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim in California? 

Every state has laws that provide a deadline for filing a civil lawsuit. The legal term for this deadline is the statute of limitations. Once the deadline expires, a person is barred from filing a claim. 

For example, under California law, victims of childhood sexual abuse can file a civil lawsuit 22 years from the date the plaintiff attains the age of majority or within five years the plaintiff discovered (or reasonably should have discovered) the childhood abuse as an adult. 

For people whose statute of limitations has been exceeded, the California Child Victims Act allows victims of any age, no matter how long ago the abuse happened, until December 31, 2022, to file a lawsuit against their abuser and other persons that may be liable for the abuse. 

Time limits can vary based on the type of sexual abuse endured. An experienced sexual abuse attorney in California can guide you through the process and discuss related exceptions. 

How Can a California Sexual Abuse Lawyer Help Me? 

If you are a victim of sexual abuse in California, a child sex abuse attorney can help you at every step: 

Listen to the details of your case to determine the best course of action to take. 

Discuss strategy with you and start to develop the case. 

Gather the necessary evidence, including dates and times when you were present with your abuser, statements of other victims of the abuser, and any physical evidence of the abuse. 

Walk you through the stages of your case and set expectations, offering legal advice and answering any questions you may have. 

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What Our Clients Say

We Are Your Voice to Seek Justice 

We represent victims of sexual abuse in civil cases. Our attorneys have extensive experience advocating for survivors of sexual abuse, exploitation and rape.  

We are dedicated to helping victims of these horrible crimes heal the wounds of their abuse by empowering them through the legal process. 

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How Common Is Sexual Abuse in California?

Sexual abuse runs rampant in California. Conducted in 2019, the Measuring #MeToo in California study reveals more than 86 percent of women and 53 percent of men report experiencing sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime. These statistics exceed the national averages by five and 10 percent, respectively. However, these numbers are likely low due to underreporting.

Can I File for Child Sexual Abuse Charges Against the California Diocese? 

According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, child sexual abuse can have lifelong, lasting effects in the form of psychological damage. If a priest or clergyman abused you as a child, you can still seek help for that abuse and receive treatment for the psychological effects it caused you. 

Many California Diocese sex abuse scandal cases contain accusations that occurred in the 1950s and the 1960s. You can still file a child sexual abuse claim for abuse that happened decades ago. The California Child Victims Act (AB 218) allows a window for victims to bring legal action for past allegations. Bishop accountability is necessary, and this legislation is making such accountability a reality. 

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"Herman Law, particularly the paralegal, she's been amazing. She always validates my feelings and what I'm going through and my phone calls. She listens to me and I feel validated, like I have power over what happened and power over what's going to happen. It makes me feel like I'm not alone anymore."

“Herman Law has definitely made it much easier on me and everybody here has been very understanding and has just been wonderful and amazing. … I feel really empowered like there’s a light at the end of my tunnel now, so to speak.”

"If I were speaking to another family of abuse I would tell that if you are looking for someone to take you seriously, treat you with respect and integrity I would call the Herman Law firm."

"I hired Herman Law because, “they were just as passionate about defending my daughter’s rights as I am."

"I recommend Jeff Herman for sexual abuse cases based on my experience co-counseling cases with him in the past. His experience is second to none, he’s very passionate in representing victims of sexual abuse, and very compassionate when dealing with the victims and their families."

"It takes a little guts to come up and say all this stuff now. You know, try not to be judged. But the people who do this kind of stuff, they should be judged."