Fr. Denis Lyons – Diocese of Orange

Father Denis Lyons

Diocese of Orange

Ordained: 1958

Removed: 2004

Assigned as follows:

  • 1959-1963      Holy Trinity (San Pedro, CA)
  • 1964-1970      St. Bernard’s (Bellflower, CA)
  • 1971-1974      St. Genevieve’s (Van Nuys, CA)
  • 1975-1977      St. Pius V (Buena Park, CA)
  • 1978                St. Mary Church (Huntington Beach, CA)
  • 1979-1996      St. John the Baptist (Costa Mesa, CA)
  • 1997-2002      St. Edward (Dana Point, CA)
  • 2002                Administrative Leave

Summary of Abuse Allegations against Father Denis Lyons:

According to media reports, in 1993, Father Denis Lyons admitted to inappropriate behavior with two adults when he worked as pastor at St. John the Baptist in Costa Mesa. In 1994, he was sent to a residential treatment center for eight months after the parents of two boys contacted the Diocese of Orange regarding inappropriate advances occurring around 1979, when the boys were 14 and 16. It was determined that he was not a pedophile and did not pose a risk to minors. 

In April 2002, Father Lyons was placed on administrative leave from St. Edward Church in Dana Point after a man alleged that he was molested by the priest in 1979 at St. John the Baptist. He was arrested in April 2003 on charges he sexually abused a teenage boy in 1979 during counseling sessions at St. John the Baptist and during visits to the boy’s home. The charges were later dropped due to the statute of limitations. He left the priesthood in April 2004.

In March 2008, a man filed a lawsuit alleging Father Lyons sexually abused him when he was a third grader at St. John the Baptist School from approximately 1994 to 1995. The case was settled in February 2009. Prior to this settlement, the Diocese of Orange had already paid more than $4 million to settle sex-abuse lawsuits involving Father Lyons.

In July 2009, Father Lyons was arrested on new charges of child sexual abuse. On March 23, 2012, Father Lyons pleaded guilty to four felony counts of lewd acts on a child under 14, and was sentenced to one year in jail, five years’ probation. He also had to register as a sex offender. The Deputy District Attorney who prosecuted the case, said the victim asked prosecutors to resolve the case without it having to go to trial, so as not to relive the pain from so many years ago.

“(Lyons) should probably spend the rest of his life in prison for the crimes he has committed over the past 20, 30 years,” she said. “But we have to take into consideration the victim’s wishes and we did that.”

Just days later, a new suit alleging child sexual abuse was filed.

According to the Diocese of Orange’s website in 2016 Father Lyons was living a “Life of Prayer and Penance.” He was included in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ list of priests accused of sexual misconduct involving minors. He was also included in the Diocese of Orange’s list of clergy removed from the ministry as a result of credible allegations of sexual abuse. According to the California Megan’s Law website, Father Lyons is believed to be living in Los Angeles. His current access to children is 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.