LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A man who says he is a lifelong lay member of the Catholic Church is suing the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, alleging that intimate photos of him with a former girlfriend were wrongfully distributed on social media sites and to other parishes, causing him to contemplate suicide.
Antonio Cailan filed the lawsuit April 4 in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of himself and his nonprofit organization, Together in Christ Catholic Charismatic Foundation, seeking unspecified damages on allegations of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and a violation of the state Civil Code.
Also named as defendants are Father Jim Clarke, Father Ramon Valera, vicar for clergy Alex Aclan, Cailan’s former love interest, Jonna Malabanan, and two other individual archdiocese members, Rose Leano and Natividad Inocencio.
An archdiocese representative did not immediately respond to an inquiry for comment on the suit.
Clarke is the director of the archdiocese’s Office of New Evangelization and Valera is the archdiocese’s liaison to the Filipino charismatic prayer groups and communities, according to the complaint.
Cailan says he helped create Together in Christ to unite people in the community to practice the Catholic faith. The group was recognized and supported by the church and held meetings on parish grounds, according to the complaint.
Cailan began an affair with Malabanan in 2015 that ended in January 2017, according to his court papers.
“From this moment forward, Leano, Inocencio (and) Malabanan conspired to defame and destroy plaintiff,” the suit alleges.
The three obtained photos of Cailan and Malabanan engaged in sexual relations and distributed them on various social media platforms, including Facebook, the lawsuit alleges.
Meanwhile, Aclan, Valera and Clarke allowed the images to be disseminated to other parishes, including St. Hilary’s Church in Pico Rivera, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Santa Monica, Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Northridge and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Oxnard, the plaintiff claims.
The two priests, Malabanan, Leano and Inocencio sought to defame Cailan by saying he was trying “to use the Catholic Church’s followers to establish his own religion,” that he had affairs with many women who attended Together in Christ and that he was collecting money for his personal use, the suit alleges.
“These statements depict plaintiff as a toxic member in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, who then took action in limiting Cailan’s influence within the church,” the suit states.
Some of the defendants’ actions, including those of Malabanan, infringed on Cailan’s First Amendment rights by hampering his ability to speak as part of his Together in Christ work on archdiocese grounds, forcing him and his organization to “gather at a Jewish temple,” according to the suit.
Together in Christ has “lost a significant following” since the false allegations were made against Cailan, whose emotional well-being has been strained to the point that he “attempted to intentionally take his own life,” the suit states.