Fr. John Peter Lenihan – Diocese of Orange

Father John Peter Lenihan

Diocese of Orange

Ordained: 1969

Laicized: 2002

Assigned as follows:

  • 1970-1974      All Souls (Alhambra, CA)
  • 1975-1977      St. Angela Merici (Brea, CA)
  • 1978-1982      St. Norbert (Orange, CA)
  • 1983-1995      St. Boniface (Anaheim, CA)
  • 1996-2001      St. Edward Church (Dana Point, CA)

Summary of Abuse Allegations against John Peter Lenihan:

Father John Peter Lenihan grew up in Ireland and was ordained in Los Angeles in 1969. According to media reports, in 1991, after being named in a civil lawsuit, Father Lenihan admitted to having sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl on multiple occasions during the summer of 1978. He was 32 at the time. In 1978, the step-father of the victim, wrote a letter to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Orange warning them of Father Lenihan’s conduct with his stepdaughter. 

“I was in love with Mary,” Father Lenihan testified, “and I sought more intimacy.”This 15-year-old was not totally unaware. She was no child.” 

The church paid $25,000 to settle her lawsuit. He said that church officials knew of his conduct but still assigned him to St. Boniface in Anaheim. Again, he was allowed to continue to work in the Diocese of Orange.

Father Lenihan underwent therapy in 1982 for eight months to resolve his sexual conflicts. He was accused of impregnating a 16-year-old girl and paying for an abortion that same year. In December 2001, a second lawsuit was filed. 

“I struggle with the thoughts that my first sexual experience was with a man twice my age, who was trusted by my parents and other families because he was their priest. I have never been able to reconcile the fact that the priest who preached on subjects like `abortion is a mortal sin’ was the one who told me to have an abortion. 

“Right about that time,” the victim said, “he started backing off. I think he moved onto somebody else.” 

In 2002, her case was settled by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Orange for $1.2 million. “I was called a liar by priests in high places,” she recalled.

In 2001, Father Lenihan was allegedly sent to a counseling program in Canada, but he did not complete the program. In September of that year, he was removed after he, under the pseudonym “Father X,” revealed to a Los Angeles Times columnist that he had had several sexual relationships, including “four serious ones.” In 2002, he agreed to request laicization by the pope after investigations were made into the Diocese of Orange’s priests.

Father Lenihan was publicly named on the Diocese of Orange’s list of clergy accused of sexually molesting children. His personnel file, which is 269 pages, was released in November 2013. His current whereabouts and whether he has access to children are unknown.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Orange.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Orange, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Orange now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims.  Call us at (888) 283-9922 or send an email to adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com to discuss your options today.