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Diocese Settles Priest's Suit for $535,000

April 25, 2000|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A settlement has been reached in a sex-and-money scandal that rocked the Diocese of Santa Rosa, officials said Monday.

The diocese has agreed to pay $535,000 to Father Jorge Hume Salas, who claimed that Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann demanded sex in return for covering up Salas' theft from his Ukiah church.

After Salas filed suit last July, Ziemann abruptly resigned, admitting the affair but saying it had been consensual. Diocesan officials subsequently discovered that overspending and large settlements in other sexual-misconduct cases had left the diocese $15 million in debt.

Many churches and schools lost their savings and special funds and have been forced to cut back drastically, postponing projects and conducting emergency fund-raising drives.

As part of the settlement, Salas will resign from the Santa Rosa diocese. However, he will remain a priest. His lawyer said Salas, who is from Costa Rica, does not intend to remain in the United States.

In a joint statement, attorneys for both sides said they disagreed on the merits of the case but "each side recognizes the legal complexities involved, the pain already imposed on the Catholic community by the issues in this case, and the need to bring the matter to a close and move on."

The diocese last month settled with four former parishioners who alleged that as teenagers they were molested by a former diocese priest.

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