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By Christine Hanley
Associated Press

Bishop Tod Brown of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange pleaded not guilty today to contempt of court and apologized to the four women who settled their molestation lawsuits against the diocese last week.
Lawyers made opening statements in the contempt case, which was then continued until December.
“I want to extend on behalf of the diocese my sincere and compassionate apology to the women who were violated,” Brown said outside an Orange County courtroom. Moments later, he came face to face with two of the women, who stayed around to listen to the bishop and his lawyer speak to reporters.
“To both of you and the other victims, all I can do is repeat my deepest and compassionate apologies,” Brown said to Sarah Gray and Christina Ruiz. He stood just feet from the women and was surrounded by reporters and television cameras.
The bishop characterized the abuse the women suffered by teachers and choir directors employed by diocese schools and parishes as “reprehensible,” “criminal,” “sinful” and “immoral,” and said it could not be tolerated.
Gray thanked Brown and suggested he might want to pass on some of his compassion to the diocese lawyers who subjected her and the other plaintiffs to grueling depositions.
Brown told her and Ruiz that his door was open and he was willing to meet with them at any time.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the recently settled case had sought the contempt hearing, accusing Brown of sending Msgr. John Urell, the chief investigator of sex abuse complaints against the diocese, to Canada for medical treatment before he could finish his deposition.
They expected the judge to dismiss their motion after the two sides agreed to settle the four cases for about $7 million.
Brown’s lawyer, Peter Callahan, insisted on going forward, saying the bishop wanted to clear his name.
Outside court, Brown told reporters that he approved of the decision to send Urell to Canada after a diocese physician had recommended he be treated immediately.
Brown acknowledged there were facilities in the U.S. that treated clergy, but the Southdown Institute in Canada had the best reputation and was able to admit Urell right away.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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