- August 01, 2013
HUNDREDS of pages of secret church files released overnight expose the troubling careers of a dozen religious order priests, brothers and nuns accused of sexually abusing children while working in the largest Roman Catholic archdiocese in the US.
The files include one case of a priest who admitted to having sexual contact with more than 100 boys while serving in several California parishes for years.
The papers, released under the terms of a $US660 million ($725 million) settlement agreement reached in 2007, are the first glimpse at what religious orders knew about the envoys they posted in Roman Catholic schools and parishes around the Los Angeles area.
The files cover five different religious orders that employed 10 priests or religious brothers and two nuns who were all accused in civil lawsuits of molesting children while working within the Los Angeles archdiocese. Among them, the accused had 21 alleged victims who complained of abuse between the 1950s and the 1980s.
The files include more than 500 pages on a priest named Ruben Martinez who belonged to a religious order called the US Province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a nearly 200-year-old Catholic organisation with roots in France. The Los Angeles archdiocese settled eight lawsuits over Father Martinez’s actions in 2007.
The documents reveal the years of effort his order spent trying to cure him of his paedophilia as it shuttled him between programs, including inpatient treatment, and paying for decades of therapy.
Some of the files unsealed overnight, including those of the nuns, don’t mention sexual abuse, and others appear to have large gaps in time and missing documents. The release included files from the Oblates, the Marianists, the Benedictines and two orders for religious sisters.
The fact that the files don’t reflect the abuse reported in civil lawsuits doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, said Ray Boucher, the lead plaintiff attorney coordinating the release.
“Much of this went unreported. You’re talking about kids that were terrorised and frightened in so many different ways, with no place and no one to turn to,” he said.
Father Martinez’s file paints a devastating picture of a troubled and repressed child who later joined the priesthood to satisfy a domineering and devout father. Father Martinez admitted in therapy to molesting his younger brother as a child, the documents show.
When he arrived in his hometown parish in 1972, he immediately began molesting children, recalled one man who sued over Father Martinez’s abuse. The man, now 50, requested anonymity because he is well-known in his professional life and has not spoken publicly about his case before. The AP does not publish the names of victims of sexual abuse without their consent.
“We were into wrestling characters on television, and what he would do is he would have us wrestle each other and then wrestle with him, which means we’d get down into our (underwear) and he’d take pictures of us. He was always taking pictures,” the man said.
The man received a settlement in 2007, and Father Martinez was never charged criminally, in part because his alleged abuses weren’t reported until years later.
Father Martinez, now 72, was removed from active parish ministry in 1993. No one answered the door at Father Martinez’s listed address, and a call was not returned.
Calls to the US Province of the Oblates and emails to two attorneys representing Father Martinez and the three other Oblate priests whose files were released were also not returned.
Carolina Guevara, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles archdiocese, did not address the current file release specifically but said religious orders are expected to make sure the priests they present for ministry in the archdiocese don’t have any history of sex abuse.
In a 2005 psychiatric assessment, done after Father Martinez was caught looking at suggestive photos of boys on the Internet, the priest said he hadn’t had sexual contact with a child in 23 years and had learned to control his impulses.
“It has not been easy to face what I did, to admit it and to talk about it with others,” he wrote to his superior the following year.
“I have had to deal with depression, self-hatred, the inability and unwillingness to forgive myself, and the desire and tendency to isolate.”