Catholic Bishop May Face Prosecution
Aug. 28 (CWNews.com) - A California prosecutor is considering criminal prosecution of a Catholic bishop who failed to report sexual abuse by a priest in his diocese.
Bishop Daniel Walsh of Santa Rosa has admitted that he did not immediately inform local police about the charges against Father Xavier Ochoa. California law requires prompt reporting of such charges; violation of that law can bring up to a 6-month prison term.
"We think we have a strong enough case for charges to be filed," a police spokesman told Associated Press. The Sonoma County district attorney has not yet announced a decision on whether or not he will prosecute the bishop.
In a statement released by the Santa Rosa diocese, Bishop Walsh said: "If I am found guilty for not taking immediate action, I will accept whatever punishment is imposed." The bishop says that his delay in reporting the sex-abuse charges was caused by "an excess of caution."
Father Ochoa is now being sought by California authorities on 10 felony charges involving sexual abuse. He is believed to have fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution. Bishop Walsh says that the accused priest has already been suspended.
Bishop Walsh could be the first American prelate to face criminal charges for a failure to report sexual abuse-- a failure that many other US bishops have been forced to admit. He was installed as the Bishop of Santa Rosa in 2000, after the previous head of the diocese, Bishop Patrick Ziemann, was forced to step down when his own sexual misconduct became known.