Diocese of San Diego named in lawsuit alleging abuse by priest in 1970s

By Egan Millard
Posted Jun 23, 2022

[Episcopal News Service] A man is suing the Diocese of San Diego and one of its parishes, alleging that he was sexually abused by a priest in the 1970s, according to the diocese.

The plaintiff says he was abused in 1974 and 1975, when he was a minor in his teens, by Francis Alan Papworth, San Diego Bishop Susan Brown Snook said in a June 17 email to the diocese. Papworth was then rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Vista, California.

Both the parish and the diocese are named in the lawsuit, which was filed the previous week, Brown Snook said in her email. The lawsuit is not yet available in San Diego County’s online court records.

Papworth, who died in 2006, was arrested in 1986 and spent four years in prison after admitting that he sexually abused boys throughout his 30-year career as a priest. He was the rector of the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa – in the Diocese of Northern California – at the time of his arrest, but had previously served parishes in Southern California. He was deposed in 1988, Brown Snook said.

“This is a painful chapter in the church’s history,” Brown Snook wrote. “But as Christians, we are called to hold our institutions to account and learn where they have failed. We also believe that we must be committed to healing for those who may have been harmed. … If allegations of child abuse were reported to any member of the clergy or any church employee today, we would immediately contact civil authorities.”

The diocese declined to provide additional information or comment on the lawsuit to Episcopal News Service beyond the bishop’s email. Brown Snook included information on how to report any additional abuse by Papworth in her email and said she would share updates on the lawsuit as she is able.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.