Just got off the phone with Malcolm Smith, a former priest in the Orange diocese who served at St. Kilian Church in Mission Viejo during the mid-1990s. Smith was there when Patrick Ziemann--then the Bishop of Santa Rosa, formerly a Mater Dei instructor--allegedly abused a boy during confession at a religious retreat. When the boy's mother complained to then-Orange Bishop Norman McFarland about the incident, His Excellency replied by stating he couldn't "conceive it as being possibly true, either as to the action alleged . . . or as to its circumstances" and said such accusations were "open to a libel suit."
Now here's the rest of the story, according to Smith:
The day McFarland received the allegation, the bishop phoned Jim Dunning, then and today St. Kilian's pastor. Smith roomed with Dunning, so he was privy to an early-morning chat between Dunning and his boss. While Smith prepared breakfast, a shaken Dunning revealed that McFarland had ripped him a new one for allowing Ziemann--who had previously given McFarland headaches by harboring porno-painting priests--to continually visit St. Kilian. The kicker, according to Smith: McFarland yelled at Dunning, "Why can't you priests stop touching boys?!"
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McFarland is long-retired, while Dunning wouldn't return calls for comment. Smith, though, stands by his story. Thank the priest for his honesty by buying his book, Thou Shalt Not Kill: Genocide in Central Africa, which recounts his days ministering in Burundi.