New lawsuit accuses former Mater Dei coach of raping student in 1980s
A Southern California woman claimed on Thursday that a Mater Dei high school track and football coach sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions in the 1980s when she was a student at the prestigious Catholic school.
In a lawsuit filed In Orange County Superior Court against Mater Dei and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, the woman says coach Patrick Callahan assaulted her “countless times” while she was a student assistant for the ‘football team.
Some of the worst abuse occurred in the summer of 1987, before his senior year, according to the lawsuit.
During “Hell Week”, a period of intense training before the start of the football season, the team and their assistant students spent the night in the gymnasium to adjust to a grueling two-day training schedule. , according to the complaint.
While the students were supposed to be sleeping, Callahan took the teenager to the soccer field, where they were alone, and raped her, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit appears to be the first public accusation of sexual abuse against Callahan, who worked as a football coach, athletics coach and physical education teacher at Mater Dei in the late 1980s, according to school yearbooks. Callahan could not be reached for comment.
The woman filed the complaint anonymously. The Times does not generally identify people who have said they have been sexually assaulted.
Institutions across California have faced a wave of abuse charges after lawmakers gave childhood survivors more time to pursue criminal charges and civil penalties. The law, which was passed in 2019, created a three-year window for victims to bring lawsuits that otherwise might have expired due to the statute of limitations. The filing window closes in December.
The diocese of Orange does not have to respond to a request for comment.
The student, who was raised in a devout Catholic family, met Callahan at a Mater Dei-sponsored athletics camp in 1984, the summer before her freshman year, the lawsuit said. The complaint accused Callahan of “grooming” her, gaining her trust as a spiritual advisor and mentor, and then sexually assaulting her.
“It’s not just a breach of trust by a coach and an adult,” said his lawyer, Mike Reck. “This experience took away part of his formative years. This part of his life will never exist again.
In addition to the rape on the football field, Callahan took the student to off-campus group dinners, fed her alcohol and assaulted her in the presence of other Mater Dei coaches, according to the lawsuit.
The nature of these alleged assaults was not detailed in the trial. It is unclear whether the coaches knew of the alleged abuse or attempted to stop it.
The abuse put the student “on the wrong track in her twenties,” Reck said. “She worked really hard to live a good life after that.”
As an adult, she reported the assaults to Mater Dei and the diocese, the lawsuit said. Reck said she met with the diocesan chancellor, the organization’s most senior lay administrator, to discuss what happened while she was at Mater Dei. Officials there should be “fully aware of this matter”, he said.
She did not contact law enforcement, Reck said.
“When she had the strength to report the abuse, she reported it to the institution,” Reck said. “That’s what good Catholics do. You go to the institution. They are supposed to be people they can trust.
The director of Mater Dei at the time was Msgr. Michael Harris, who was later charged with assaulting male students. Harris left the priesthood in 2001 after the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Orange County paid one of his accusers $5.2 million.
Reck said his client’s assaults happened during a “very dark time for Mater Dei”, adding that “it doesn’t happen in a vacuum”.
The lawsuit filed Thursday identifies the diocese and school as “Doe 1” and “Doe 2.” Cases filed under the three-year window for childhood sexual abuse do not list defendants until the names are approved by a judge, Reck said.
Callahan left Mater Dei to coach at Santa Margarita Catholic High School, another diocesan school, according to the lawsuit. He then worked for 16 seasons as a football coach at Cerritos College.
In 2006 he pleaded guilty to one count of falsifying government documents to obtain more than $150,000 in financial aid for junior college athletes. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, in media reports at the time said he admitted fraudulently obtaining aid for 13 football players from 1999.
Callahan told a judge he helped students submit fraudulent financial aid documents and altered registration documents to help out-of-state players receive college tuition. State, according to the media.
The claims in the lawsuit echo other allegations made about Mater Dei teachers, administrators and staff in previous litigation.
In 2005, the Diocese of Orange agreed to pay $100 million to settle claims filed by 90 people who said they were abused by priests and other diocesan employees, including at Mater Dei.
In 2007, the diocese settled four other indecent assault lawsuits for nearly $7 million. A former Mater Dei student has accused assistant basketball coach Jeff Andrade of sexually assaulting her for more than a year, starting when she was 15. Andrade admitted in a deposition to having had sex with the student. He was fired, but was later allowed to return to campus several times as an employee of a company that raised money for school athletic programs.
Reck is one of the attorneys representing a family who sued the diocese and Mater Dei in November, alleging that a brutal hazing incident in the college football locker room left their son with a broken nose and traumatic brain injury. The school said the lawsuit was without merit.
The November trial launched a wave of media scrutiny of the elite school.
In early January, President Walter E. Jenkins abruptly left Mater Dei. Jenkins, a priest, has returned to South Bend, Ind., to “take on a new mission” with his religious order, the diocese said.
Just before he left, Jenkins hired a law firm to investigate safety protocols at Mater Dei and its athletics programs.
His successor, Michael Brennan, was announced six days later. Brennan spent nearly 15 years as principal of Servite High School in Anaheim and served as president of the Trinity League, the high school athletic conference that includes Mater Dei, for about a decade.
Brennan will oversee the security review, which is scheduled to begin this semester, the diocese said.