San Diego

Lawsuit: Former Priest Says Catholic Church Defamed Him By Outing Him As Sexual Predator

J. Patrick Foley worked in San Diego for nearly 20 years

A former priest is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego for defamation of character, after the diocese outed him publicly in 2018 for allegedly molesting two boys.

J. Patrick Foley of Sacramento filed the lawsuit on Sept. 12 in San Diego Superior Court, alleging the Roman Catholic Diocese published “false and defamatory material” in a “reckless disregard for the truth.”

According to the complaint, the Church added Foley’s name to the list of 48 priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese in San Diego who allegedly molested children along with seven other priests in September 2018. Just 11 years prior, the diocese had agreed to pay $198 million to settle nearly 150 child sex abuse claims.

Foley worked various jobs for the San Diego Diocese since joining in 1973. Among them were stints at Saint Francis Seminary in Linda Vista as well as at the University of San Diego.

Foley, says the complaint, was first accused of inappropriately touching a child in 1989 while he provided emergency medical care. Former Bishop Robert Henry Brom ordered Foley to go to a mental health facility in Connecticut. He later returned to the ministry.

In 2010, Foley was again accused of molesting a boy in the early 1990’s. According to the complaint, a tribunal was called. The three priests were unable to reach a finding of any wrongdoing.

Foley’s name then appeared again when the San Diego Diocese released his name along with seven other priests in 2018, all accused of molesting children.

“And in this case, sadly, just like in criminal and civil cases, they couldn't reach a conclusion,” diocese spokesperson Kevin Eckery told NBC 7 in September 2018. “It literally put the diocese between a rock and a hard place.”

Up until the 2018 release, NBC 7 reported that the diocese continued to send letters of recommendation for Foley.

Foley, who lives in Northern California, told KQED that the accusations against him were “false and libelous.”

Foley is suing for punitive damages for what the lawsuit claims to be “severe humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress,” as a result of the release of his name.

Foley’s attorney declined to comment for the story.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego told NBC 7 that it had not been served with the lawsuit and is unable to comment at the time.

Contact Us