Woman says San Diego priest abused her in kindergarten

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SAN DIEGO – Stepping in front of cameras outside St. Jude Shrine of the West Friday, a woman who asked to be called Cynthia Ann spoke of her alleged abuse at the hands of a local priest.

“At the age of 5, while I was a kindergartner here at St. Jude’s Academy, I was sexually assaulted,” she said. She claims he took her, “in his bedroom, at the rectory that no longer exists. I will still forever see it in my mind.”

Cynthia Ann first shared her story in 2007, but it took her nearly 50 years to get the courage to do so.

“The pain, the anger, the betrayal, the humiliation are not understood by your innocent, 5-year-old mind,” she added. “What you are left with is that you are worthless, dirty and bad. You’re so bad that even God must not love you because your priest hurt you and made you feel nasty.”

The priest she claims assaulted her spent over 30 years in the church but died more than a decade ago. From a legal standpoint, her attorney said she couldn’t file charges if she wanted to, because she passed the statute of limitation 30 years ago. However, there was a brief window in 2003 when the statute was lifted.

Victims like Cynthia Ann wondered if they had missed their opportunity for justice once the window closed. However, just last week, the California Attorney General announced plans to audit abuse claims in some of the state’s Catholic churches.

“As a result of the grand jury report in Pennsylvania, Attorney Generals across the country have taken an interest in looking into exactly what kind of cover-ups there were in other diocese,” Attorney Joseph George, who represents Cynthia Ann, explained.

George said he and Cynthia Ann want to see the Diocese update their list of priests with credible abuse claims against them to include a handful of San Diego priests, including the one Cynthia Ann says abused her.

In response to the allegations, the local diocese responded with an email that read in part:

“First, we want to extend our deepest apologies for what this woman experienced and have already extended an offer through her attorney to pay for counseling if she believes it will be helpful. With respect to her attorney’s belief that the diocese purposely left five priests off of the list of priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children, we disagree.”

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