STOCKTON, Calif. — A Northern California Catholic church is embroiled in a sexting scandal.
A Stockton parishioner claims he was fired from his job after his priest sent him an explicit text message, CBS San Francisco reported.
Now the parishioner has filed a lawsuit.
The incident allegedly happened at the Presentation Church and School. The man bringing the lawsuit has maintained the fountains and pool there for the past seven years.
His attorney, Irvine-based John Manly, said while the married man in his 40s cleaned the pool, Pastor Lawrence McGovern would often sunbathe and make flirtatious comments, “Laying around in a speedo, making our client very uncomfortable.”
“Our client’s a married man,” said Manly. “This is his pastor.”
The suit claims in late July, McGovern texted the man a picture of his genitals.
Then he allegedly wrote, “Oops, sorry about that. The curse of the Internet. Shame on me. What is my penance?”
The employee wrote back, “I thought you were celibate, Monsignor.”
McGovern’s alleged response? “But it is not me — celibate means not married — sometimes I get the wrong images.”
The suit claims the pool man then reported the behavior to police and days later, he was fired.
“Monsignor McGovern either fired him because he reported him, or he fired him because he rebuffed whatever advance McGovern was making,” said Manly.
The Stockton Diocese issued a statement regarding the allegations: “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.”
Stockton police did investigate and referred the case to the San Joaquin District Attorney’s office. The district attorney is now deciding whether charges should be filed.
Meanwhile, the pool man’s child is scheduled to start at the school where McGovern is the pastor, so Manly said he wants McGovern gone.
“If any principal or any school administrator sent a picture of their penis to a parent, they should be fired, not the other way around,” he said.
As Stockton’s Vicar General, McGovern is second-in-command of the diocese.
In that position, Manly said the Monsignor was in charge of at least two priests who were found to have molested children.
Stockton Priest Named In Retaliation Lawsuit Over Alleged Sexting
August 13, 2016 12:05 AM
STOCKTON (CBS13) — There’s more trouble for the Catholic church. A Stockton pool man claims he was fired after a priest sent him sexually explicit text messages. He has now filed a civil lawsuit and wants the priest removed.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in San Joaquin County
Monsignor Larry McGovern is not just the head of Presentation Church in Stockton, but also the head of a Catholic school. Some parishioners say he’s been a role model to them and the allegations against him are unbelievable.
“I cannot believe it, I cannot believe, there are so many things that I just pray to God that this is not true,” says parishioner Claudia Liborio.“It’s kind of heartbreaking in a way because you know we all love him, we all care for him and this is the last thing we ever wanted to hear from a person like him,” says Miguel Fajardo whose been going to Presentation Church since he was 8 years ago.
For the past seven years the man who is bringing this lawsuit, a pool maintenance contractor has been servicing the church’s fountains and pool. According to the lawsuit Pastor McGovern would often sunbathe at the home across the street from the parish, where he resides, in revealing bathing suits and would make flirtatious comments.
Attorney John Manly who represents the plaintiff says, “He’s the pool guy, he’s there to clean the pool, he doesn’t want interaction like that with a 70 year old man. He’s a 42 year old married man with children, trying to make a living. ”
Manly claims in late July Monsignor McGovern texted the pool man while he was off the job about some algae found in the pool, then he texted a picture of his genitals with his pants down.
McGovern allegedly wrote “oops, sorry about that. The curse of the Internet. Shame on me what is my penance”
The man wrote back: “I thought you were celibate Monsignor” and the response: “but it is not me – – celibate means not married sometimes I get the wrong images.”
The suit claims the pool man then reported the behavior to Stockton police, an investigation began and days later he was fired
“It’s not ok to retaliate against somebody who complains against sexual misconduct,” says Manly.
“Monsignor Larry either fired him because he reported him, or he fired him because he rebuffed any advance he was making, either way it’s wrong, it violates the law, and it hurts this family.”
Manly says his client has a child at the Catholic school where the priest resides over, and now worries that children could be in danger
“If any principal or any school administrator sent a picture of their penis to a parent they should be fired, not the other way around.”
The diocese of Stockton says it is just learning about the allegations and released this statement Friday:
“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 Stockton Police department has turned the investigation over to the DAs office to see if any charges will be filed