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Suit Alleges Sexual Abuse by O.C. Priests

October 18, 1994|TRACY WEBER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two former Orange County priests currently facing allegations of sexually abusing young boys have also been named in a suit filed in federal court.

Stephen Archambo, who now lives in Illinois, contends in his civil suit that he was molested over a five-year period by Father Richard T. Coughlin, former head of the Costa Mesa-based All-American Boys Chorus, and Father Gary Pacheco, a priest at Sts. Simon and Jude Church in Huntington Beach.

It is the second suit filed against Coughlin and the internationally known chorus he started in 1970. Another former member of the chorus, Patrick O'Neill, filed suit in April, 1993, alleging that Coughlin fondled him and committed other sexual acts from 1976 to 1981.

All told, at least four priests who are working or have worked in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange are currently the target of lawsuits and claims alleging they committed sexual improprieties with minors. At least eight Orange County priests or brothers have been charged or sued in regard to similar allegations since 1988.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday October 22, 1994 Orange County Edition Part A Page 4 Column 5 Metro Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Sexual abuse lawsuits--An article Tuesday about molestation suits against four priests incorrectly described their job status. None of the priests are currently working in the Diocese of Orange.

"The stigma of suing a priest and suing the church is being washed away by the exposure," said Mark Roseman, the Santa Ana attorney representing Archambo and O'Neill. "(The victims) are starting to see the perpetrators as mortal. They're starting to see past the cloak and the collar."

Both Coughlin and Pacheco have denied the allegations.

Coughlin, 69, was suspended by the Diocese of Orange in January, 1993, when allegations surfaced that he molested five youths over a period 10 to 30 years ago. Coughlin was subsequently ordered to sever all ties with the chorus and stripped of his ability to function as a priest.

Archambo, now 26, alleges in his January suit that while he was a member of the chorus from 1978 to 1983, Coughlin fondled him during long bus trips and, on one occasion, in the shower. It wasn't until last year that Archambo linked the alleged childhood sexual abuse to psychological problems he was having as an adult, the suit says.

Coughlin has denied the allegations by the five chorus members. He could not be reached for comment on Archambo's suit. The Diocese of Orange, which is also named in the suit, did not return phone calls Monday.

Pacheco, a Franciscan who has since left the order, also is targeted in a suit filed last month by David A. Price, who is also suing Msgr. Michael Harris, the popular ex-principal of Santa Margarita High School, alleging sexual molestation.

Both Price and Archambo allege that Pacheco molested them in Archambo's bedroom at his Huntington Beach home in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

John Nelson, Pacheco's attorney, said he has not yet been served with Price's suit, but that Pacheco has denied Archambo's "outrageous and speculative" allegations.

The Franciscan Friars of California, who are also named in both Archambo's and Price's suits, declined to comment. But Father John Hardin, assistant to the head of the West Coast province, said Pacheco has been "dispensed from his vows as both a Franciscan and a priest."

Hardin said he believed Pacheco left the order about seven years ago after serving in the order for 18 years.

Archambo alleges in his suit that Pacheco was a friend of his family and frequently ate dinner at the family's home or popped in unannounced for visits. During these visits, Pacheco would come to Archambo's room and force the boy to put his hand down the priest's pants, the suit claims.

In sworn depositions, Archambo contends that Pacheco took him on trips to Las Vegas and Disneyland and he was "gratified by the attention" the priest gave him and feared it would stop if he told.

"If you understand the Catholic system, a priest is more than a man," Archambo said in his deposition. "I was confused."

Price, now 29, also alleges that Pacheco molested him at the Archambo home. Price said the priest molested him while he was staying with the Archambo family shortly after his stepmother died in 1981.

Price contends that Pacheco would come to Stephen Archambo's room at bedtime and would proceed to sexually molest Price in the dark. Pacheco also molested Price in the rectory of Sts. Simon and Jude Church, the suit says.

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