May 18, 2005

Orange Diocese Gives Details on Sex Abuse

Los Angeles Times

By William Lobdell and Jean Guccione, Times Staff Writers

For more than two decades, officials in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange covered up for priests who molested children, shuffling predators from parish to parish and diocese to diocese, protecting them from prosecution and failing to warn parishioners of the danger, according to church documents released Tuesday.

More than 10,000 pages of letters, handwritten notes, memos and other documents detailing church actions were released from the personnel files of 15 priests and teachers as part of a court-approved $100-million settlement reached in December between the Orange Diocese and 90 alleged molestation victims. A judge ruled, however, that he was "powerless" to order the release of files on eight other priests and teachers.

According to the newly released documents, church officials dumped one serial molester in Tijuana. They welcomed a convicted child abuser from another state into their diocese, even though they knew he faced a new allegation. When he was accused once again, they sent him to a New Mexico rehabilitation center with a notation: "No one else will take you." And they offered a repeat abuser up to $19,000 to leave the priesthood quietly.

Even as they coddled abusive priests, church officials stonewalled and ostracized victims' families, the documents show.

"It is hard to believe that our spiritual leaders would knowingly sacrifice lives of innocent children … to keep up the façade and [live] a lie," a woman wrote in a 1986 letter to Diocesan Administrator John T. Steinbock, now bishop of Fresno, after learning that Andrew Christian Andersen, a Huntington Beach priest who allegedly molested her son in 1983, had gone on to sexually abuse three more boys.

"How many more innocent children does he have to molest before something is done about this sick man!" she wrote.

The pattern of deception involved two bishops of Orange — William R. Johnson, now deceased, and Norman F. McFarland, who retired in 1998 — and Auxiliary Bishop Michael P. Driscoll, now bishop of Boise. It also involved Msgr. John Urell, then a top diocesan official and now pastor of St. Norbert Church in Orange.

Posted by kshaw at May 18, 2005 04:59 AM