May 19, 2005

The 'Sins' Of The Father

Orange County Weekly

by Gustavo Arellano

Pope John Paul II knew.

On May 17, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered their release.

Of the many shocking stories to emerge from the Orange diocese’s recently released personnel files, one fact is likely to resonate around the world: The pope knew that Catholic priests were accused of molesting children as early as 1987--and apparently did nothing to stop the scandal.

That disturbing revelation is included in the papers of Father Andrew Christian Andersen. His file is included in the thousands of pages of documents released May 17 as part of the record-breaking $100 million settlement reached between the Orange diocese and its victims. Andersen pleaded guilty in 1986 to 26 counts of molesting four boys while working at St. Bonaventure in Huntington Beach.

One item in his file is an August 10, 1987, note to Orange diocesan officials from Monsignor Oscar Rizzato, then Secretariat of State for the Vatican. The Secretariat of State, as the Vatican’s website describes it, is the arm of the Holy See’s bureaucracy "which works most closely with the Supreme Pontiff in the exercise of his universal mission."

Rizzato’s letter is brief: just an acknowledgement that the Vatican had received and was forwarding to Orange two letters from a non-Catholic outraged at the Orange diocese’s handling of the Andersen case. As previously reported in the Weekly (see "Good Cop, Bad Church," Feb. 20, 2004), church officials stymied Huntington Beach police detectives who wanted to interview Andersen about the molestation claims.

The man, whose name has been redacted, said he was writing John Paul II "out of desperation and heartache." His letter describes the domestic havoc unleashed after a deacon abused his brother during the 1970s. The man also expressed disappointment that many St. Bonaventure parishioners and church leaders continued to support Andersen--after he admitted to the molestation charges, even after officials sent him to the Paracletes facilities in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, a remote counseling center for the church’s child-molesting priests.

Posted by kshaw at May 19, 2005 08:24 PM