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Lawsuit says priest abused student at Bellflower's St. John Bosco High in 1960s

June 30, 2010 |  5:41 pm

A lawsuit filed Wednesday in Norwalk is the latest to accuse the Roman Catholic Church of systematically allowing a priest to sexually abuse a minor, in this case a former student at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower.

The alleged abuse occurred during the 1960s, when the unidentified victim was a student at the school. The lawsuit says he was abused by a former dean of students, Father Titian "Jim" Miani, who was previously accused of molesting four other students at the school. The Salesian Society, the Catholic order that ordained Miani, agreed in 2008 to pay $19.5 million to 17 abuse victims, including the four at Bosco.

The new lawsuit does not name Miani as a defendant, focusing instead on the Vatican, the Salesian Society, its California "provincial" organization and St. John Bosco, accusing all four of negligence and fraud for allowing Miani to work at the school beginning in 1963, despite knowing that he had a history as a sexual offender in Italy and Canada. It asks for unspecified damages.

"Each of them allowed this serial offender, this predator, this priest, Jim Miani, to roam the landscape of schools and parishes, abusing children one after another," said Jeffrey Anderson, a Minnesota attorney who has filed numerous lawsuits against the Catholic Church on behalf of sexual abuse victims.

A spokesman for the Salesian Society, Father John Itzaina, said he hadn't seen the lawsuit and couldn't comment on the allegations against his order. He said Miani had left the Salesian Society in the early 1970s. However, he added, "we realize that the pain and the consequences .. .are not lessened by the passing of 45 years, and we again apologize for the action of the accused.... We understand the hurt, the deep hurt, that those acts and incidents of abuse have caused to young people and their families, and we recognize the pain and the reprehensible behavior of this former Salesian.”

Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican's U.S. lawyer, said he had only glanced at the lawsuit and couldn't comment in detail. “It includes many familiar and general allegations from former attempts to sue the Holy See in other lawsuits," he said. "And it’s quizzical that it has been filed in a state court when clearly, if it is against the Holy See, it should have been filed in a federal court."

Miani's last assignment as a priest was with the Diocese of Stockton, whose website lists him as retired. He could not be reached for comment.

-- Mitchell Landsberg