The following comes from an August 12 RecordNet.com article by Jason Alexander:
Attorneys from a Southern California law firm announced Friday they have filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and retaliation by a pastor at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockton who was later placed on administrative leave.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in San Joaquin County Superior Court, alleges that Monsignor Lawrence McGovern sent sexually explicit photographs to the victim, a pool maintenance contractor, and then terminated his employment after the victim reported the incident to the police.
“Today the Diocese of Stockton learned for the first time of employment related allegations against Monsignor Lawrence McGovern, the Pastor of Presentation Parish in Stockton,” a statement from the diocese said. “In accordance with the Canon Law of the Church, Bishop Stephen Blaire has placed Monsignor McGovern on administrative leave pending a full and complete investigation.”
The lawsuit comes as another blow to the diocese, which filed for bankruptcy in January 2014 after paying millions of dollars to settle years of child sex abuse lawsuits. According to the Manly, Stewart and Finaldi law firm, which is representing the victim, the diocese paid $14 million in judgments, settlements and legal expenses in dozens of cases of clergy sexual abuse filed over a period of 20 years.
Attorneys representing the victim said their client asked McGovern why he sent the photograph, saying: “I thought you were celibate, Monsignor.” The attorneys said McGovern replied: “Celibate means not married.”
McGovern served as vicar general of the diocese at a time when the diocese was inundated with sex abuse lawsuits. McGovern was a key witness in several cases involving former priests Oliver O’Grady and Michael Kelly.
“Monsignor McGovern was a witness and denied knowing of any sexual improprieties by Father Kelly and Father O’Grady, despite living with them in the rectory for years and contract to victim statements,” attorney Vince W. Finaldi said. “It is sad but not surprising that he now stands accused of sexual misconduct.”