Californian bishop faces prosecution over failure to report

Bishop Daniel Walsh of Santa Rosa Diocese in California has said that he will accept "whatever punishment is imposed" if he is found guilty of failing to report sexual abuse by a priest of his diocese.

Bishop Walsh, who has admitted that he did not immediately inform local police about the charges against alleged sex offender Fr Xavier Ochoa, could be the first American prelate to face such charges, Catholic World News reports.

California law requires prompt reporting of such charges; violation of that law can bring up to a six-month prison term.

"We think we have a strong enough case for charges to be filed," a police spokesman told Associated Press although the district attorney has not yet announced a decision on whether or not he will prosecute the Bishop.

In a statement released by the 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."

Fr Ochoa, who is believed to have fled to Mexico, is now being sought by California authorities on 10 felony charges involving sexual abuse.

Bishop Walsh took over as 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.

Prosecution possible for California bishop (Catholic World News, 28/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishop Daniel Walsh (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Diocese of Santa Rosa, California

29 Aug 2006