LOS ANGELES - A Southern California man who says he was sexually abused by his parish priest decades ago has sued all Catholic bishops in California and the Archdiocese of Chicago, seeking to compel church officials to release records on clergy abuse.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday by Thomas Emens claims a civil conspiracy among church officials to cover up clergy assault and move offending priests to other parishes.
Emens says he was abused for two years starting in 1978 when he was 10.
Attorney Jeff Anderson says the goal of the so-called "nuisance" lawsuit is to force the church to reveal the names of all priests accused of child molestation.
A call seeking comment from officials at the California Catholic Conference of Bishops was not immediately returned.
The court filing invokes both public and private statutes of nuisance law in California. Such laws generally involve behavior that negatively affects a community or interferes with the use and enjoyment of private property, said John Nockleby, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
Alleging nuisance violations in relation to past sexual abuse by a single priest is a "creative approach" by Emens' lawyers, said Nockleby, adding that it will be very difficult to prove in court.
Criminal charges are not feasible in this case because they would fall outside California's statute of limitations.