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The 36-year-old Eureka man suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa said Friday he was one of several young children in the early 1980's who were systematically molested by a priest, sometimes in groups.

He accused the former Rev. Patrick J. McCabe, now 74, of pulling two to three children at a time from his third-grade class at St. Bernard Parish in Eureka and walking them to the room attached to the church, where he would fondle them.

He called the darkened room "an all-you-can-eat buffet for a monster."

The man, listed as John Doe in his lawsuit against the diocese, spoke on condition of anonymity in an interview. "He would basically have his way with the kids," he said, speaking in a telephone interview arranged by his lawyer, Joseph George of Sacramento.

"It was terrible. I grew up thinking, &‘That's the way it is.' It really screwed me up."

His comments came a day after the lawsuit was filed in Sonoma County Superior Court accusing the diocese of fraud and negligence for hiring the priest despite allegations of prior misconduct with children.

The man said he broke his 26-year silence about McCabe after reading a newspaper article that said McCabe had been arrested on charges he molested six boys in his native Ireland from 1973 to 1981. McCabe, who was removed as a priest in 1988, was being held without bail this week at Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County pending an extradition process in federal court that would send him back to Ireland.

McCabe was transferred from his home country to a special pedophile treatment facility in New Mexico in 1983 before being assigned by the diocese to Eureka.

"I think his history was known by select people," the alleged victim said. "Absolutely it was. Apparently, the people who sent him knew."

Bishop Daniel Walsh, the head of the diocese since 2000, declined to comment on the lawsuit or answer questions on the allegations Thursday. Attempts Friday to reach Walsh were rebuffed by his administrative assistant, Pam Hawkins, who said that Friday is the bishop's day off and he would not comment.

An official report, commissioned by the Irish government and released last year by the Dublin, Ireland, Archdiocese, appears to support the contention that the Santa Rosa diocese knew McCabe's history. The report examines the activities of more than 40 priests involved in sexual misconduct in Ireland, including McCabe.

"It appears that Archbishop (Dermot) Ryan asked him (Hurley) to, as it were, &‘rid me of this troublesome priest,' and Bishop Hurley agreed," according to the 61-page portion of the report. The account details the misdeeds of an unnamed priest that precisely match McCabe's history.

The report says that Hurley, who died in 2001, was informed by Ryan of McCabe's "personal difficulties" and the nature of his treatment for pedophilia.

However, Diocese attorney Adrienne Moran on Friday said there was no evidence that then-Bishop Mark Hurley or other diocesan officials knew of McCabe's past. She said a 1998 deposition of Hurley's top assistant, Monsignor Thomas Keys, said McCabe was transferred to Guerneville in 1985 after a Eureka parent complained McCabe had children sit on his knee during confession.

Moran said it was unclear who if anyone in the diocese knew why McCabe was being treated in the Albuquerque facility. Typically, clinics like that address alcoholism and "other frailties."

"It's somewhat nebulous what was said to Bishop Hurley," Moran said. "According to Monsignor Keys' testimony, there was not any indication Father McCabe had a history of sexual contact with children."

McCabe was assigned in 1983 to St. Bernard parish in Eureka, where at least three other priests involved in the North Coast diocese's sexual abuse scandal also worked at various times.

Priests who worked alongside McCabe said Friday they were unaware of allegations of child sex abuse against him before he was transferred to California from Ireland and saw no signs during his tenure that he was a molester.

Monsignor Gerard Brady, who was head pastor of St. Bernard Church in Eureka when McCabe arrived, said he received no information from the diocese that gave him pause. Brady himself was transferred a year later but McCabe stayed on.

"I didn't know of his problems with allegations of mistreatment of youth," said Brady, now at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Napa.

And Father Tom Diaz, who was at St. Bernard from 1981-1985, said he remembers McCabe as a "very friendly" priest with a thick Irish brogue but never heard any complaints about him abusing children, either in Ireland or California.

He said it wasn't until he met another Irish priest years later in 2002 that he first heard rumors about McCabe.

"I said I knew a priest from Dublin. His name was Pat McCabe," said Diaz, now diocesan director of vocations. "He said, &‘Oh. He was accused of molesting. You guys didn't know about it?' I said I didn't."

However, Diaz said he had just been ordained by Hurley when he met McCabe and wasn't privy to confidential matters.

Father John Griffin, who was pastor in Eureka when McCabe left and is now head of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Rohnert Park, declined to comment.

Meanwhile, McCabe's alleged victim said he thinks others may come forward with reports of abuse at the hands of the man he called Father Pat.

The man said he kept it a secret from even his parents because of shame and feelings that "you don't ever go against the church."

But he said he couldn't keep quiet after learning of McCabe's past and hearing information about who might have known.

"Catholic churches are a breeding ground for pedophiles," he said. "Hopefully we will be the last wave of children to be violated."