Bishop Bad Boy

Santa Rosa's charismatic Catholic bishop got busted shaking down a priest for sex. But he had friends in high places -- and they served him well.

Richard says the trysts -- accompanied by payments of usually $50 to $100 -- continued after Ziemann was assigned to Mater Dei High School in Orange County. Richard says Ziemann didn't stop calling him for sex after he began attending St. John Bosco High School in nearby Bellflower, where he became a standout basketball player. Richard says that over the years many of the two dozen or so sexual encounters he purports to have had with Ziemann occurred in the cleric's car after Ziemann arranged to meet him at some discreet location, often near the beach. Once, he says, Ziemann called to say he was coming to Huntington Park to perform a wedding, and the men met and had sex in a storage room at the parish hall.

Their meetings became fewer after Richard was married in 1977, he says. Divorced the following year, he moved to Oregon but still saw Ziemann on occasional trips to California, he says. Meanwhile, in 1985 Ziemann's mentor Mahony became archbishop of L.A. and Ziemann's career took an upward turn. Mahony appointed him vice rector and dean of students at Our Lady Queen of Angels, a junior seminary in the San Fernando Valley. Mahony elevated him to auxiliary bishop in 1987. Richard says Ziemann sent him an invitation to the formal installation ceremony held inside L.A.'s ornate old cathedral, but that although he made the trip to Los Angeles, he couldn't bring himself to attend the event.

"I just didn't feel comfortable going into a house of God under the circumstances," he says.

Better Times: Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann, before he 
resigned his Santa Rosa post in 1999.
Courtesy of the Press Democrat
Better Times: Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann, before he resigned his Santa Rosa post in 1999.
Levada gets an earful from whistle-blower Sister Jane 
Kelly in 1999.
Courtesy of the Press Democrat
Levada gets an earful from whistle-blower Sister Jane Kelly in 1999.

His last hookup with Ziemann, he says, came in 1986 at the junior seminary where Ziemann was dean, and where Richard had gone ostensibly so Ziemann could counsel him in advance of his second marriage, to a Catholic woman. During one of the days he was at the seminary, he says, he and Ziemann engaged in oral sex in an empty classroom after one of the counseling sessions. He says that later, despite further entreaties from Ziemann, he resolved not to have sex with the auxiliary bishop "because I wanted to be faithful to my wife." But he says he continued to correspond with Ziemann and to receive financial assistance from him well into Ziemann's tenure as bishop of Santa Rosa.

Disappointed after Ziemann failed to say hello while in Portland on church business in 1997, Richard says he called the bishop and let him know that he was anguished and in need of financial help. Ziemann, he says, responded with several checks totaling "more than $2,000." Richard says at least one of the checks bore the imprimatur of the "Saint George Fund," but that he never questioned its source, assuming that as bishop Ziemann had access to a variety of church funds.

Kelly Clark, Richard's Portland attorney, says his client's lawsuit is the result of his "trying to come to grips with what's happened to him." But Richard claims to hold no rancor toward the bishop. "I don't want anything bad for him," he says. "I just feel that he took advantage of me when I was young and naive. I was easy pickings for someone like him. I guess more than anything I want him to face up to what he did, be honest about it, and say he's sorry."

Meanwhile, abuse victims and their advocates say Ziemann also ignored complaints against other priests during the time he served as the L.A. Archdiocese's auxiliary bishop.

In one case, a former nun candidate, who says she told Mahony and Ziemann of being molested in childhood by a priest, charges that both men ignored her complaints. Erin Brady, who now lives in Oregon and works as a teacher, says she was stunned when Mahony transferred the accused priest from L.A. to Santa Rosa following Ziemann's appointment as bishop there.

In another instance, a man who claims he was molested by an L.A. priest while on a church retreat says his father -- a church deacon and personal friend of Ziemann -- reported the abuse directly to Ziemann, who assured him it would be dealt with. "Ziemann absolutely turned his back on us. Nothing ever happened," says Carlos Perez, the alleged victim.

Perhaps the most significant case involves a former St. John's seminarian who in 1979 turned to Ziemann for help in dealing with a priest instructor who was pressuring him and other students for sex. The seminarian also told Ziemann about a Catholic high school friend reportedly being molested by one of his teachers, Monsignor Michael Harris. Ziemann promised help, but didn't deliver.

Years later, after Harris was accused of molesting a student, Ryan DiMaria, at an Orange County high school where Harris was the popular principal, the seminarian's affidavit proved crucial to DiMaria's lawsuit against the archdiocese for having failed to rein in Harris. (As it turns out, Ziemann and Harris were friends.) In 2001, soon after Ziemann was deposed by DiMaria's lawyers and shortly before Mahony would have been forced to testify at the trial, the cardinal authorized a $5.2 million payment to DiMaria to settle the complaint -- at the time the largest such settlement ever for a single victim in a Catholic sex-abuse case.

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