Woman files sexual abuse lawsuit against priest, Archdiocese of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A lawsuit has been filed against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and a priest, claiming he sexually abused a woman at American Martyrs Catholic Church in Manhattan Beach.

Catherine Bergin claims Father Nicholas Assi sexually abused her last spring at the church.

"He pressed his belly against my back. He pushed me against the counter. He put his hand under my shirt, moving down my pants," she said.

Bergin and her attorney have filed a lawsuit against Assi and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. She said the church is once again trying to hide sexual abuse problems, in this case by transferring Assi to a different parish - St. Basil's Church in Koreatown.

"It's hypocrisy. They act like everything is fine. It's not. When something like this happens, they turn their backs," Bergin said.

The Archdiocese said Bergin is the only person to lodge a complaint against Assi. The church would not make anyone available to talk about the case to Eyewitness News, but it did issue a written statement.

"The matter was investigated by law enforcement and the District Attorney's office declined to press any charges. After cooperating with law enforcement and following all archdiocesan protocols, Fr. Assi was returned to ministry as a priest in good standing," the statement said.

Bergin said the district attorney will only press charges if someone else comes forward with similar accusations against Assi.

She is hoping the lawsuit, and help from the Survivor's Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) may spur other women who may have been accosted by Assi to come forward.

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