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FEBRUARY 23, 2004

 

 

 

NEWS IN BRIEF

L.A. reports 244 clergy accused of abuse
LOS ANGELES — The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has released a comprehensive 22-page report on allegations of sexual abuse of minors over more than 70 years, going beyond the national goal of assessing cases since 1950. Based on archdiocesan files and lawsuits by victims, the document reports that 244 priests, deacons, Brothers and seminarians and one “bogus priest” have been accused since 1930.

Of this total, 113 were diocesan priests, 43 have died, and 54 are no longer in ministry. The report states that 16 remain in ministry because the allegations against them “do not constitute child abuse,” were “not sufficiently credible” or were so recent that they have not yet been fully investigated.
The full document, “Report to the People of God: Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from 1930-2003,” is available online at www.la-archdiocese.org.

San Jose Diocese issues report
on abuse claims

SAN JOSE – The Diocese of San Jose reported Feb. 14 that 15 of its priests have been the subject of “credible allegations” of child sexual abuse while serving in parishes in Santa Clara County over the past half century. Five of the priests were accused of molestations since the diocese was created in 1981. They represent 1.2 percent of the 405 priests who served in the diocese during that time. According to the report one of these priests is deceased and the other four have been removed from ministry.

South Dakota priests give money
to abuse victims

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) – Moved by the growing numbers of sex abuse allegations against Catholic priests across the country, priests in this South Dakota diocese decided to donate five percent of their monthly salaries to a fund they set up to help cover therapy costs for victims of sexual abuse and for abusers.

The Lazarus Fund was started in June 2002 at an annual retreat of Rapid City diocesan priests and is a nonprofit organization, independent of the diocese. Diocesan priests make about $1,100 a month. In addition to their monetary contributions, the priests fast one day a week and hold weekly Masses to pray for healing the pain that sexual abuse has caused.

First Filipino-American bishop
ordained in L.A.

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Bishop Oscar A. Solis, 50, became the nation’s first Filipino-American Catholic bishop when he was ordained at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Feb. 10. Bishop Solis, 50, became one of five auxiliary bishops in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Named to the post by Pope John Paul II in December, the bishop, who was born in the Philippines and ordained to the priesthood in 1979, will head a council focusing on minority issues.

He worked in various pastoral and educational ministries before moving to the United States in 1984. The archdiocese, the largest in the nation, has five million Catholics and is among the most diverse, including at least 400,000 people of Filipino origin. Sunday Masses are celebrated in 42 languages.

Arizona bishop convicted in
hit-and-run accident

PHOENIX (AP) – Bishop Thomas O’Brien was convicted Feb 17 of leaving the scene of a hit-and-run accident that killed a jaywalking pedestrian last June. He is believed to be the first Catholic bishop in U.S. history to be convicted of a felony.

An eight-member jury deliberated for nearly seven hours after the five-week trial before announcing the unanimous verdict. Bishop O’Brien, 68, who stepped down as head of the Phoenix Diocese following the accident, faces a sentence of up to three years in prison. He could also be given probation. No sentencing date has been announced.

Priest sentenced for abuse during confession
LOS ANGELES (AP) – A visiting priest from Mexico was sentenced to a year in jail Feb. 10 for sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl whose confession he was hearing.

Father Avdon Serratos, 31, also was ordered to register as a sex offender and given five years’ probation. Father Serratos normally ministers in Colima, Mexico, and comes to the Los Angeles area in summer to minister to Mexicans living here, authorities said.

He was arrested last August when the victim reported to police that Serratos had kissed and fondled her during confession in the bedroom of a family friend’s home in Los Angeles. Prosecutors said the girl told her mother about the abuse as soon as she got home. Father Serratos was given 277 days credit for time served, leaving him 88 days to serve.

Kenya investigation into death
of priest resumes

NAIVASHA, Kenya (AP) – A slow-moving inquest into the death of a U.S. Catholic priest resumed for one day after a four-month break Feb. 10 with a witness testifying that Father John Kaiser feared a senior government official would have him killed.

The inquest is being held to determine whether a crime was committed in connection with Father Kaiser’s death. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was investigating the death at the Kenyan government’s invitation, concluded that Father Kaiser shot himself.

Father Kaiser, who had been in Kenya for 35 years, was found dead on the side of a busy highway on Aug. 24, 2000 with a gunshot wound to the right side of his head. His shotgun was found nearby, and his pickup truck was 10 meters (33 feet) away in a ditch.

Some suspected his death was related to his involvement in publicizing abuses committed during politically motivated tribal clashes under the regime of former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi. Father Kaiser also claimed that then Internal Security Minister Julius Sunkuli had sexually assaulted some of his female parishioners.

Conference of Mayors opens
faith-based office

WASHINGTON (RNS) – The U.S. Conference of Mayors has opened a “Mayors Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives,” joining other local and state efforts to foster partnerships between government and religious groups.

Tom Cochran, executive director of the umbrella group, said senior staffers will work with the 180 mayors across the country who have set up offices or liaisons to connect with faith-based organizations. He envisions new collaborations that will help cities address such issues as drug abuse, housing, and aiding prisoners re-entering society.

Prison staff failed to protect
murdered priest

BOSTON (RNS) – Prison staff should have done more to prevent the seemingly predictable August murder of pedophile priest John Geoghan, whose molestation of dozens of boys over three decades in ministry made him a national symbol of clergy sexual abuse, according to a report released Feb. 3.

The 125-page report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety found insufficient basis for Geoghan’s transfer to the maximum security prison where he was killed Aug. 23. Guards at MCI Concord, the state prison where Geoghan was originally confined, not only failed to protect him from abuse but also took part in humiliating him by issuing “a disproportional number of trivial disciplinary reports” and, in one incident, delivering a blow to the face.

“If current (Department of Corrections) policies and procedures were followed,” said Public Safety Secretary Edward Flynn, “95 percent of what went wrong on Aug. 23, 2003 could have been avoided.”

Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.

BISHOP
VIGNERON