A famous San Francisco church is at the center of a scandal after an ex-employee filed a lawsuit Wednesday charging that a church trustee forced her to perform a variety of sexual acts in the church shrine and in the sacristy, the room where the church’s sacred vestments are stored.
Former administrative assistant Jhona Mathews, a 33-year-old single mom, also alleges in the suit that trustee Bill McLaughlin, then employed by the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi in San Francisco’s North Beach, spanked her exposed buttocks using a wooden paddle.
The paddle was inscribed with his name and the name of Monsignor James Tarantino — as well as the acronym BNO, standing for “Boy’s Night Out.”
Mathews, pictured above, filed her complaint in San Francisco Superior Court. The full complaint can be read below.
“Many of these sex acts and demands and the spankings occurred inside the shrine premises, in the sacristy of the shrine,” Mathews lawyer, Sandra Ribera, told San Francisco TV station KGO. She said that Mathews suffered the extreme sexual harassment for about a year, in fear of losing her job. But when she finally refused to take part in the sexual scenarios dreamed up by McLaughlin, who is in his late 60s, she was fired, the lawsuit says.
“The powers that be at the church, they retaliated against her by terminating her,” Ribera said.
In a statement responding to the lawsuit, the church denied all the allegations, saying that Mathews was fired “for financial improprieties that are the subject of an ongoing police investigation.”
McLaughlin was also let go by the church, allegedly also for misuse of church funds, according to a report last year in The San Francisco Chronicle.
According to the allegations, McLaughlin forced Mathews to submit to anal, oral and vaginal sex with him inside the San Francisco church, supposedly as a disciplinary measure for mistakes Mathews made in the course of her job.
It was McLaughlin who hired Mathews in February of 2012 after meeting her when a carpet company that employed her worked on renovations to the office of San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. But shortly after she was hired, McLaughlin began regaling her with sexually explicit e-mails and demands that she participate in sexual acts with him.
Because she was a single mother under financial pressures, Mathews says that she felt she had no choice but to go along with McLaughlin’s sexual demands.
Ribera told KGO that security cameras in the San Francisco church could provide evidence that the sex acts took place.