Law Review: Seven more victims sue the Catholic Church


A few years ago, this column summarized the statistics of thousands of lawsuits filed against the Catholic Church for ignoring the molestation of children by priests who historically were transferred to other parishes where their pedophilia continued. Today’s case, Ratcliff v. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, analyzes a new case filed by seven adults.


Seven adults claiming they were molestation victims, sued the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles and related individuals and entities for molestation allegedly committed by Father Christopher Cunningham. Father Cunningham was ordained a priest in 1990. Prior to that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had received complaints that no less than 22 of its priests had sexually molested children. The archdiocese adopted new policies for the prevention of child molestation but as this case highlights, the policies were largely ignored.


This Opinion out of Second Appellate District Court of Appeal highlights claim-by-claim a series of egregious acts by Father Cunningham and the Archdiocese’s repeated failure to investigate – instead reassigning and promoting Father Cunningham – which allowed the molestations to continue. Insiders in the church described privately that Father Cunningham was “immature” – code for suspicions of molestation. The complaints and suspicions were ignored.

The Archdiocese defended the lawsuits brought by the seven victims on technical grounds. In the end, the plaintiffs were allowed to continue their lawsuits – and rightly so when you see the evidence.


The California legislature has been active passing laws opening the door for victims of priest abuse to file lawsuits years after the occurrence – recognizing that victim’s memories of the events are often suppressed for years. Notwithstanding these codes favoring victims, ultimately a deadline to sue will pass, so if you are a victim, timely filing a claim is critical.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at or

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