Only On 7: San Francisco church accused of lurid sex cover-up


Jhona Mathews is a single mother in her 30s with a 2-year-old child. She worked in the administration office of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.

Mathews says church trustee Bill McLaughlin, who has since been fired, became her supervisor. Her lawsuit charges that he forced her to have sex and spanked her with a wooden paddle.

"Many of these sex acts and demands and the spankings occurred inside the shrine premises, in the sacristy of the shrine," said the plaintiff's attorney, Sandra Ribera.

Mathews says the paddle was given to McLaughlin by his close friend, Monsignor James Tarantino. He's charged in the lawsuit with covering up the alleged wrongdoings.

"The inscription BNO, which stands for boys night out," Ribera said. "And it says To Bill M. from Father T. The sexual acts that Bill McLaughlin was basically threatening my client to engage in otherwise she would lose her job."

Ribera says that after almost a year of enduring the abuse, her client told McLaughlin no more.

"The powers that be at the church," Ribera said, "They retaliated against her by terminating her."

The church responded with a statement saying in part that the lawsuit is "full of lurid accusations but devoid of the truth." It went on to say, "Mathews was let go for financial improprieties that are the subject of an ongoing police investigation."

Mathews' attorney responded this way.

Ribera: "Anything that she has done has been at the direction of Bill McLaughlin as her supervisor."
Lee: "She's never stolen money there?"
Ribera: "Not that I'm aware of."

Attorney Ribera says that they have explicit photographs which her clients' supervisor sent via email and text messages. She also says the shrine has security cameras which should be an important bit of evidence.

Our calls to the archdiocese were not returned and the attorney for McLaughlin declined to comment.

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