January 20, 2005

Goodwill Shunting

Orange County Weekly

by Gustavo Arellano

The image made the front page of newspapers across the country and led off multiple newscasts: a tearful Joelle Casteix accepting the humbled apology of Bishop Tod D. Brown moments after he announced the settlement of 90 sex-abuse cases against his Diocese of Orange for $100 million, the largest settlement amount in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. The image was supposed to signify a new era for the Orange Diocese—an era of reform, transparency; an era where, as Brown put it, the harassment of molestation victims "will never happen again."

The image was a fraud.

Just four days later, Brown’s spokesman, Father Joseph Fenton, ruined whatever goodwill the bishop established with sex-abuse victims.

Among those named in the $100 million settlement was Thomas Hodgman, a former Mater Dei High School choir teacher who was alleged to have repeatedly raped Casteix while she was a student at the Santa Ana parochial school in the late 1980s. The Toledo Blade discovered Hodgman working as a choir director at Adrian College, a small liberal arts institution in southeast Michigan, and asked him about the Orange diocese decision. Hodgman dismissed Casteix’s story as "bogus;" school officials admitted they knew about their employee’s molesting past but supported him.

Blade reporter Robin Erb then contacted the Orange Diocese for comment. Fenton, loathed by Orange County Catholics for his abrasive bluster, seemingly sided with Hodgman. "Under no circumstances does the settlement imply any guilt on anyone’s part," Fenton told the Blade.

Posted by kshaw at January 20, 2005 09:08 PM