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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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‘This Is the Stuff You Go to Hell for’

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Sodomy and brutal spankings in the sacristy of a shrine to St. Francis were part of the job for a single mother who was afraid to resist a contractor with powerful connections in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the woman claims in court.

Jhona Mathews needed a job to support her 3-year-old daughter, and Bill McLaughlin demanded sex as thanks for setting her up as an administrative assistant at the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, she claims in Superior Court.

Mathews claims that McLaughlin had an "intimate friendship" with co-defendant Monsignor James Tarantino, formed while the men worked together for two decades at St. Hilary's Catholic Parish in Tiburon.

At this point - 5 pages into the 50-page lawsuit - the allegations take a turn toward the lurid: "When at Saint Hilary's in Tiburon, Monsignor Tarantino welcomed defendant McLaughlin into the 'BNO' (Boys Night Out) fraternal society. At that time, Monsignor Tarantino gave defendant McLaughlin a wooden sex paddle with the following inscription engraved on the paddle:


"To: Bill M.

"From: Fr. T.

"Said wooden paddle (hereinafter referred to as the 'BNO paddle') was subsequently used to 'spank' raw the buttocks of plaintiff after she was hired as the administrative assistant to the rector of the shrine. Defendant McLaughlin took photos of plaintiff's raw buttock and the paddle lying right beside her and sent them to himself and to plaintiff.

"Upon information and belief, defendants [sic] sole use of this paddle was for the purpose of violent and sadistic 'punishment,' paddling the naked rear end of plaintiff during sexual activities."

Mathews sued McLaughlin, the Archdiocese of the City and County of San Francisco, Monsignor James Tarantino, and the Capuchin Franciscan Order of California - Western American Province.

Tarantino hired McLaughlin to work at the shrine to St. Francis in April 2010, and in June that year Tarantino became Vicar General of the Archdiocese, in which job he was "in charge of all real property of ASF [the Archdiocese of San Francisco] as well as the treasury/finances of ASF, including all expenditures of all funds within ASF," according to the lawsuit.

Mathews claims that "(f)rom 2010 through 2013 defendant McLaughlin ran the Shrine of San Francisco for ASF and Capuchin through and with Father Coiro, and at the direction of Monsignor Tarantino."

She was hired in the autumn of 2012. She was a 32-year-old single mother, McLaughlin a 67-year-old divorced father with one son, she says in the complaint.

Mathews claims that the sex and filmed spanking began almost at once and continued for a year, until she refused to participate in any more of McLaughlin's "punishment and repenting" sessions - and was fired.

Early on in her job, Mathews claims, McLaughlin took her to the church sacristy, where sacred vestments and vessels are kept, and spanked the hell out of her.

"Once there, defendant McLaughlin insisted on 'punishing' plaintiff. He told her: 'Bend over ... It's time for punishment!' Defendant McLaughlin pulled down plaintiff's pants, bent her over a railing, and proceeded to spank her with his bare hands. Defendant McLaughlin spanked her aggressively despite plaintiff's complaints that it was painful. This went on for minutes until she pulled her pants up and ran from the sacristy." (Ellipsis in complaint.)


She claims McLaughlin sent her offensive emails, such as "a picture of a hand holding a penis."

The complaint describes even more offensive behavior, such as: "Defendant McLaughlin would also send plaintiff sexual emails/text messages referencing a spanking by the BNO paddle given to him by defendant Monsignor Tarantino.

Defendant McLaughlin constantly told plaintiff that she was going to be 'punished' severely if she didn't do certain job-related tasks that he requested of her to his liking. For example, defendant lured plaintiff to the Sacristy under the auspices of getting files. Once there, he told her that 'she looked like she could use a good dicking' and proceeded to bend her over on her knees on the pedestal in the middle of the small room and had sex with her. Plaintiff told him to stop, but defendant McLaughlin did not. Plaintiff was in tears and was emotionally distraught.

"Plaintiff was desperate to keep her job. She wanted to learn how she could get the upper hand in these situations so that defendant McLaughlin's 'punishment and repenting' sessions would stop."

She tried to keep away from him at work, but it was impossible, Mathews says.

"Defendant McLaughlin continually pressured and forced Plaintiff to perform sexual favors for him, including, but not limited to, anal sex, oral sex, and vaginal sex, as well as submitting to spankings and beatings with the BNO paddle that Monsignor Tarantino gave him," the lawsuit states.

"Defendant McLaughlin would lure plaintiff under false pretenses and take advantage of her when no one else was around. Defendant McLaughlin used plaintiff's job performance at the shrine to compel plaintiff to do what he wanted sexually. All sexual acts, including, but not limited to, anal sex, oral sex, vaginal sex, and spankings with the BNO paddle, were tied to plaintiff's job performance, as stated in his text messages. Defendant McLaughlin would often describe to plaintiff in detail what he was going to do to her beforehand. Defendant McLaughlin would insist on these sexual acts taking place in the sacristy, and he would become angry when plaintiff would have excuses as to why she couldn't meet his ongoing sexual demands.

"Defendant McLaughlin's history of anger issues was notorious and had been reported to Monsignor Tarantino and Archbishop Cordileone, as well as Father Snider and Father Coiro on many occasions. Defendants never did anything to remedy the ongoing complaints that were being made regarding Defendant McLaughlin. In fact, when asked to address any issues concerning Defendant McLaughlin, Monsignor Tarantino would shrug his shoulders and say 'He's my friend.'"

Archbishop Salvador Cordileone and the two "Fathers" are not parties to the lawsuit. Mathews claims that McLaughlin told her: "'In case you haven't noticed, Father Coiro doesn't fart without my permission.' Defendant McLaughlin said the same thing about Father Snider when he arrived to replace Father Coiro, in the summer of July 2013."

Mathews claims that McLaughlin knew she was vulnerable and "that she would be homeless with her daughter if she left this new job."

"He told her that he was always watching her, that he had other people watching her, and that her job was on the line," Mathews says in the complaint.

At one point, she says, McLaughlin "had an office right next to the Archbishop Cordileone at the Chancellery at One Peter York Way in San Francisco."

After McLaughlin installed video cameras throughout the shrine, Mathews claims, Cordileone, Tarantino and the other defendants all had access that would allow them to see and hear the abuse.

She took her job seriously, learned about Catholicism and read up on the saints, but nothing stopped McLaughlin's threats to severely "punish" her for not performing work and sex-related tasks to his satisfaction, Mathews claims.

One day as Mass was starting, Mathews says, she was in the rectory bending over a printer and McLaughlin approached her from behind and said, "bend over the desk now," and had sex with her, saying he was punishing her for avoiding him and that "this is the stuff you go to hell for."

She claims that on Aug. 10, 2013, McLaughlin texted her: "I hope your ass is ready. Have been visualizing a serious spanking ... I don't think you realize what I intend. Making up for everything. Setting a baseline ... Behavioral baseline. This is a punishment spanking." (Ellipses in complaint.)

The next day, she texted McLaughlin that she would be out for the day and he texted back, "Ass more vulnerable ... You have no idea," Mathews claims. (Ellipsis in complaint.)

When she "would no longer succumb to his sexual advances" McLaughlin got her fired on the pretexts of absenteeism and poor performance, though she had never been put on notice about either issue, Mathews says. She claims the defendants also claimed that she had mishandled a flash drive.

"The reasons that defendants gave for plaintiff's termination were a pretext to cover up the fact that plaintiff would no longer submit to defendant McLaughlin's sexual demands, including, but not limited to, anal sex, oral sex, vaginal sex, and spankings with either defendant McLaughlin's hands or the BNO paddle that Monsignor Tarantino gave to him," according to the lawsuit.

Mathews seeks back pay, front pay and damages for quid pro quo sexual harassment, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, bad faith, negligent supervision, gender violence, sexual battery, conspiracy, misrepresentation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

She is represented by Sandra L. Ribera.

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