May 19, 2005

Sealed records show cover-ups

The Orange County Register

The Orange County Register

Former Bishop Norman McFarland and other Catholic leaders scripted plans to cover up admitted sexual abuse that led to the resignations of a Placentia pastor and a Mater Dei High School teacher, according to sealed personnel files that are part of a $100 million settlement by the diocese.

For the first time, documents reveal that the Rev. John E. Ruhl and school choir director Thomas Hodgman confessed their misconduct to church officials more than a decade ago. Hodgman for years has publicly claimed innocence, while Ruhl has refused to comment.

In both cases, records show, the church removed the men once they received a public complaint but orchestrated carefully worded plans to hide why they had been dismissed. Both were said to have resigned for personal reasons.

A different story emerges from sealed documents inadvertently given to The Orange County Register, documents that were mixed in with others approved for release by the court. The Register is publishing these papers to give a fuller picture of how the church handled those accused of molestation. "These documents have existed for how long?" said Claudia Vercelloti, head of the Toledo chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Hodgman now teaches at Adrian College in Michigan, near Toledo.

"They have been hiding these records, when they knew what was going on," she said. "They turned a child molester out on another state."

Posted by kshaw at May 19, 2005 08:08 AM