“New files reveal decades of abuse in Los Angeles Catholic churches” & related articles

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Hundreds of pages of secret church files shed light on the careers of a dozen priests, brothers and nuns accused of sexually abusing children while working in Southern California parishes for decades.

NY Daily News

 

LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of pages of secret church files released Wednesday shed light on the troublesome careers of a dozen religious order priests, brothers and nuns accused of sexually abusing children while working in the nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese.

The files include one case of a priest who later admitted to having sexual contact with more than 100 boys while serving in several Southern California parishes for years.

The papers, which were released under the terms of a $660 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 archdiocese itself released thousands of pages under court order this year for its own priests who were accused of sexual abuse, but the full picture of sex abuse in Los Angeles remained elusive without the religious orders’ records.

Several dozen more files are expected to be released by the fall.

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 alleged 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 U.S. Province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a nearly 200-year-old Catholic organization with roots in France. The Los Angeles archdiocese settled eight lawsuits over Martinez’s actions in 2007, but had little documentation on him in its own files even though the priest worked in its parishes for years in the 1970s and 1980s.

For those who allege abuse by Martinez, the documents provide validation and reveal the years of effort his order spent trying to cure him of his pedophilia as it shuttled him between programs, including inpatient treatment, and paid for decades of therapy. Martinez also marched in a gay pride parade while serving as a priest and enrolled in a counseling program for people with sexual compulsions.

Some of the other files unsealed Wednesday, including those of the nuns, don’t mention sexual abuse at all 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.

One nun, Sister Mary Joseph, belonged to a small Catholic order called the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Joseph was accused after her death and the order found nothing to substantiate the claims, said Sister Barbara Anne Stowasser, a spokesperson for the order.

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 terrorized and frightened in so many different ways, with no place and no one to turn to,” he said.

Martinez’s file is among the most complete and paints a devastating picture of a troubled and repressed child who later joined the priesthood to satisfy a domineering and devout father. Martinez, a twin and one of nine children, grew up in the same working-class city south of Los Angeles where he is accused of later molesting children when he was posted there as a priest. Martinez also 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 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 skivvies and he’d take pictures of us. He was always taking pictures,” the man said. “I just remember the smell of the old Polaroid flash cubes. He would go through them like crazy.”

The man received a settlement in 2007, and Martinez was never charged criminally, in part because his alleged abuses weren’t reported until years later.

The man said Martinez always had a group of young boys around him and would take them to see R-rated movies and on group trips. One summer day, he recalled, the priest took six boys to a local amusement park, but stopped on the way at an apartment where another man lived. Martinez and the man went inside with one of the boys and left the other five in a hot car for several hours. When the trio came back, the boy was sobbing and didn’t stop for hours.

“A lot of us kind of knew what had happened to him,” he recalled.

Martinez, now 72, was removed from active parish ministry in 1993 and has a most recent address at the Oblate Mission House in Oakland. No one answered the door there and a call was not returned. His file, however, shows he was sent to a Missouri retreat home for priests in 2005. A receptionist there said Wednesday she could not confirm or deny his presence there and he did not return a message left with her.

Calls to the U.S. Province of the Oblates and emails to two attorneys representing Martinez and the three other Oblate priests whose files were released were also not returned.

Attorneys for the Benedictines and Marianists and a representative from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus also did not return calls.

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 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.”

But Martinez’s file reveals that church authorities had cause to doubt the priest’s self-control.

In psychological reports, the priest admits to molesting children beginning almost with his first assignment in 1970, when he began playing “giddy up” games with young boys on his lap. He stopped “direct sexual contact” with boys after a mother complained to his pastor in 1982 and stopped touching boys altogether after another complaint in 1986.

It’s unclear whether his religious order or the archdiocese was aware of those complaints, but around that time Martinez began weekly therapy sessions. He entered a counseling program for people with sexual compulsions in 1986 and joined a gay pride group.

He later received inpatient treatment and was enrolled in a sex offender program after another complaint surfaced from his past. In 2003, he was moved to the Oblates’ offices in Washington, D.C. where he worked at the switchboard answering phones and in the archives.

Yet even there, Martinez ran into trouble: Within months, he was reprimanded for making off-color, sexual jokes that offended several women and, later, for looking at sexually suggestive pictures of young boys on the Internet and downloading a disk filled with “references to topics dealing with the gay lifestyle,” according to the file.

“I don’t know who else has time to monitor him, or to what `safe’ place we could assign him,” the Rev. Charles Banks, the vicar provincial and director of personnel for the Oblates wrote in an exasperated memo.

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Horrific Details About Priest’s Sex Abuse, Use of Prostitutes Revealed in Unsealed Secret Files

The Blaze

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In therapy sessions, the priest confessed the shocking details he’d kept hidden for years: He had molested more than 100 boys, including his 5-year-old brother. He had sex with male prostitutes, and frequented gay strip clubs.

The admissions of the Rev. Ruben Martinez are included among nearly 2,000 pages of secret files unsealed Wednesday that were kept on priests, brothers and nuns who belonged to religious orders but were accused of child molestation while working within the Los Angeles archdiocese.

The papers, which were released under the terms of a $660 million settlement agreement reached in 2007, are the first glimpse at what religious orders knew about the men and women they posted in Roman Catholic schools and parishes in the Los Angeles area. The archdiocese itself released thousands of pages under court order this year for its own priests who were accused of sexual abuse, but the full picture of the problem remained elusive without the orders’ records. Several dozen more files are expected to be released by the fall.

The documents 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. Among them, the accused had 21 alleged victims between the 1950s and the 1980s.

Some of the files released Wednesday, including those of the nuns, don’t mention sexual abuse at all, and others appear to have large gaps in time and missing documents. The release included documents from the Oblates, the Marianists, the Benedictines and two orders for religious sisters.

That the files don’t reflect some of the alleged abuse doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, said Ray Boucher, lead attorney for some abuse victims. “Much of this went unreported. You’re talking about kids that were terrorized and frightened in so many different ways, with no place and no one to turn to.”

At more than 500 pages, Martinez’s file is among the most complete, and it paints a devastating picture of a troubled and repressed child who later joined the priesthood to satisfy a domineering and devout father.

The Los Angeles archdiocese settled eight lawsuits over Martinez’s actions in 2007, but had little documentation on him in its own files even though the priest worked in its parishes for years in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, his order file includes graphic details described in therapy notes and psychiatric evaluations. It also reveals the years of effort – and tens of thousands of dollars – the Oblates spent trying to cure him of his self-admitted pedophilia as it shuttled him between programs, including inpatient treatment.

In 1965, Martinez took his final vows for a religious order called the U.S. Province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a nearly 200-year-old Catholic organization with roots in France. In 1969, he was ordained as a priest and assigned by his order to a small parish in Brawley, Calif.

In a 1993 psychiatric report – one of several such evaluations done between 1991 and 2005 by various treatment programs – the priest admitted to molesting children beginning in 1970, when he began playing “giddy up” games with young boys on his lap. In the documents, Martinez says he stopped “direct sexual contact” with boys after a mother complained to a pastor in 1982 and that he stopped touching boys altogether after another complaint in 1986.

It’s unclear whether his religious order or the archdiocese was aware of those complaints, but around the same time as the first complaint, Martinez began weekly therapy sessions. He entered a counseling program for people with sexual compulsions after the second complaint in 1986.

In 1991, he received five months of inpatient psychological treatment from a center in Jemez Springs, New Mexico that specialized in treating troubled priests.

Upon his release, Martinez was assigned to a tiny parish in the remote town of Westmorland, Calif., in the far southeastern corner of the state. While there, he would drive miles to San Diego to pick up male prostitutes, according to his file.

He was removed from parish ministry in 1993, enrolled in a sex offender program and sent to live and work at the order’s California headquarters in Oakland after another complaint surfaced from his past. For the rest of his career, he filled administrative roles.

Calls to the U.S. Province of the Oblates and emails to two attorneys representing Martinez and the three other Oblate priests whose files were released were not returned. Attorneys for the Benedictines and Marianists and a representative from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus also did not return calls.

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.

One man who sued over Martinez’s abuse told The Associated Press that the priest molested children after he was assigned to his hometown parish in Wilmington, a working-class city south of Los Angeles, in 1972. 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.

“He would have us wrestle each other and then wrestle with him, which means we’d get down into our skivvies and he’d take pictures of us. He was always taking pictures,” the man said. “I just remember the smell of the old Polaroid flash cubes. He would go through them like crazy.”

The man received a settlement in 2007 from the archdiocese. Martinez was never charged criminally; most of his alleged abuses weren’t reported until years later.

The man said Martinez always had a group of young boys around him and would take them to see R-rated movies and on group trips. One summer day, he recalled, the priest took six boys to a local amusement park, but stopped on the way at an apartment where another man lived. Martinez and the man went inside with one of the boys and left the other five in the car for several hours. When the trio came back, the boy was sobbing and didn’t stop for hours.

Martinez, now 72, has a most recent address at the Oblate Mission House in Oakland, Calif. No one answered the door there and a call was not returned on Wednesday. A receptionist at a Missouri retreat home for troubled priests – another possible place where Martinez could be living – would not say if he was there.

In 2003, after a decade in at the order’s California headquarters, Martinez was moved to the Oblates’ offices in Washington, D.C., where he worked answering phones and in the archives. There, his files show, he was reprimanded for making off-color, sexual jokes that offended several women and, later, for looking at sexually suggestive pictures of young boys on the Internet and downloading a floppy disk filled with “references to topics dealing with the gay lifestyle.” He also marched in a gay pride parade.

“I don’t know who else has time to monitor him, or to what `safe’ place we could assign him,” the Rev. Charles Banks, the vicar provincial and director of personnel for the Oblates wrote in an exasperated memo in 2003.

The file shows that Martinez was sent to the Missouri retreat home for troubled priests in 2005. In a psychiatric assessment dated that same year, Martinez said he hadn’t had sexual contact with a child in 23 years and had learned to control his impulses. The same report notes that at age 13, Martinez sexually molested his little brother and went on to molest “about 100 male minors” – a detail also included in several others therapy evaluations in the file.

“It has not been easy to face what I did, to admit it and to talk about it with others,” Martinez wrote to the order’s provincial in 2006. “I have had to deal with depression, self-hatred, the inability and unwillingness to forgive myself, and the desire and tendency to isolate.”

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Five Catholic religious orders release files on L.A. clergy abuse

The Los Angeles Times

Confidential personnel records from five Catholic religious orders were turned over to victims of sexual abuse Wednesday in the first wave of a court-ordered public disclosure expected to shed light on the role the groups, operating independently of the L.A. Archdiocese, played in the region’s clergy molestation scandal.

The documents pertain to a dozen priests, brothers and nuns accused of sexual misconduct in the landmark 2007 settlement with hundreds of people who filed abuse claims against the Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles. An additional 45 religious orders will release the personnel files of their accused clergy by this fall, completing what is believed to be the fullest accounting yet of the abuse crisis anywhere in the Catholic Church.

The 1,700 pages released by the religious orders differ markedly from those disclosed in January by the Los Angeles Archdiocese to comply with the terms of its settlement with all victims abused within its three-county jurisdiction. The archdiocese handed over materials reflecting Cardinal Roger M. Mahony’s meticulous record-keeping of molestation claims and treatment of accused offenders.

By contrast, the order files are a hodgepodge of seminary report cards, vacation requests, baptismal certificates and breezy dispatches in which priests update their higher-ups on parish projects. For the most part, the files have little or no reference to abuse allegations that surfaced in lawsuits a decade ago, suggesting the orders were either unaware of molestation claims or opted not to document them.

When matters of abuse were referenced, officials sometimes seemed reluctant to commit the ugly details to paper. In the case of Benedictine priest Mathias Faue, one supervisor wrote vaguely of “his problem” or “difficulty.” In the file of Oblate Father Ruben Martinez, an order official repeatedly switched to Japanese characters to note sensitive subjects, including his admissions of “homosexuality” and “relations with boys.”

Although the archdiocese took the lead in the litigation, about half of the alleged perpetrators belonged to religious orders, such as the Jesuits, Salesians and Vincentians, and answered to those orders rather than the local archbishop.

Wednesday’s release also covers the Marianists, the Benedictines, the Oblates and two orders of nuns. The disclosures by the Cabrini Sisters and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet mark the first time in the L.A. litigation the files of women have been made public. The two nuns, who are deceased, were accused in lawsuits of sexually abusing students decades ago. Their files contained no information on misconduct allegations.

The files that do detail abuse allegations show superiors at order headquarters in Shawnee, Okla., Washington D.C., and other far-flung locales struggling to keep tabs on repeat molesters working in Southern California.

In the decades before email and cheap air travel, their efforts to track problem priests often relied on the U.S. Postal Service. In a 1985 letter to Faue, his supervisor in Oklahoma wrote that he’d heard of misconduct around the globe but knew little for sure.

“I never found out [the] exact circumstances in Prague. There are rumors that float in the community about some difficulty you had years ago in Montebello and in Anadarko,” the supervisor wrote. Faue died in 1989 while working at the Montebello parish.

In the case of Martinez, order officials in Oakland and Washington, D.C., began trying to deal with his abuse of boys in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, but didn’t realize the full scope of his misdeeds until 2005 when he admitted his victims could number as many as a hundred.

At 521 pages, Martinez’s file is the longest and chronicles decades of molestation that began soon after his 1968 ordination. In the 1980s, at churches in Pacoima and Wilmington, two mothers raised concerns about Martinez’s behavior with altar boys. But it was several years later, when Martinez himself complained of fatigue and burnout from parish work, that he was sent to therapy at a New Mexico center for troubled clergy.

After completing the treatment in 1991, he was allowed back into ministry by Father Paul Nourie, a newly appointed head of the order, even though Nourie wrote that he had “every reason” to believe the veracity of complaints of Martinez’s “alleged misbehavior with younger males.” Calling him “blessed and gifted,” Nourie sent Martinez to an Imperial Valley church, where he was soon working with youth.

“Today we had first Holy Communions. We had about 30 children,” Martinez wrote to a superior in May 1992.

In 1993, a 25-year-old man came forward with another allegation, saying Martinez had abused him as a teenager some years back. The man asked that the authorities be notified, and said he wanted to make sure no other children were hurt. Officials took Martinez out of ministry and sent him for another evaluation, but told the man they were limited in what they could do.

“I indicated … that the Oblates could not really tie a person down, but that we could provide treatment, a healthy environment, and continued supervision,” Nourie wrote. There is no indication in the file that authorities were alerted.

By 2003, with the sexual abuse crisis making international headlines, the Oblates had a drastically different response to any whiff of scandal. Complaints that Martinez had made “off-color jokes” at a California retreat were met with a stern letter telling him the behavior would not be tolerated and threatening to move him to a restricted-living community for abusive priests. When he was found downloading unspecified “inappropriate material” on office computers the following year, he was once again sent away for an evaluation, where he told therapists he had had “sexual contact with about 100 minors” in the past. As of 2006, Martinez was living at a Catholic center in Missouri for troubled clergy. Now 72, he did not immediately respond to a request for comment through order attorneys.

One man who received a settlement for abuse by Martinez at Holy Family Parish in Wilmington in the 1970s said he hoped the disclosure of the priest’s personnel file would be the final step in his healing process.

“I always felt angry and that my childhood had really been ruined,” said the man, now 50 and an Inland Empire resident. “After the records being released, I have closure.”

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