January 23, 2006

Religious jurors to hear opening statements in priest abuse case

The Press-Enterprise

The Associated Press


Jurors who are about to hear opening statements in a priest's molestation trial include several deeply religious people who believe that priests should be held to a high moral standard because of their role as spiritual leaders.

Most said they found the issue of clergy child abuse disturbing but promised to be fair in judging the defendant, retired priest Michael Wempe.

"I'm always kind of saddened by these kinds of cases," said a woman who remains on the jury. "I think priests are our spiritual leaders and they have a greater accountability."

The woman, who said she had been excommunicated by the Catholic Church when she married a divorced man, said she holds no hard feelings against the church.

Some other panelists, however, expressed their concern about the way the entire priest molestation issue was handled by the Los Angeles Archdiocese. That issue is likely to be a subtext of Wempe's trial, which centers on activities that followed his return to priestly duties after six months of therapy. Cardinal Roger Mahony approved his reassignment as chaplain of Cedars Sinai Hospital in spite of his history as a molester.

Posted by kshaw at January 23, 2006 07:57 AM