January 06, 2005

Church abuse payout a matter of perspective

CALIFORNIA
Orange County Register

FRANK MICKADEIT
Register columnist

fmickadeit@ocregister.com

The Diocese of Orange's $100 million priest-abuse settlement and the issues surrounding it are so overwhelming it's almost impossible to grasp and to write about.

The magnitude of the deeds, the suffering, the coverups, the money, the future. Every person I talk to comes at it from a different angle. Any attempt to deal with it in my little corner here will fall short. But let me share with you three short takes from three O.C. Catholic men you may have heard of.

Tom Fuentes used to work for the diocese (he could have been deposed if the lawsuits had gone forward) and has many personal ties to church hierarchy. Discussing the scandal one day, he told me, "Every time I think about it, I become almost physically ill." The way those words seemed to get caught in his throat and the fact that I literally could see his diaphragm convulse under his starched white shirt, for a second I thought he might actually vomit on me. No kidding. He's that emotional about it.

Fuentes thinks back to the time, three decades ago, he was attending a seminary in the Bay Area, and remembers an aura of sexual permissiveness that offended his orthodoxy. Such permissiveness, which he believes was present in many seminaries of that era, is what led to this crisis, he believes.

On the other end of the political spectrum is Gustavo Arellano, who has been covering the scandal for the OC Weekly, no friend of the diocese (or of Fuentes, come to think of it). Arellano grew up in Anaheim. Over lunch with me this week, he said that when he was a kid it was common knowledge among parishioners at St. Boniface that Father John Lenihan the man who gave him First Communion had raped a girl. Nobody did anything, he said.

Posted by kshaw at January 6, 2005 08:32 AM