Legal Papers Describe Santa Barbara’s History of Pedophilic Catholic Priests

Posted by

August 26, 2004 The Sick Lives of Problem Priests Legal Papers Describe Santa Barbara’s Long History of Pedophilic Catholic Priests by Matt Kettmann Catholic priests and friars began sexually abusing Santa Barbara’s children way back in the 1930s and, for the past 70 years, the Catholic Church has done little to remedy the situation that its hierarchy makers knew all too much about. Rather-explains legal papers filed this week by Santa Barbara attorneys Tim Hale and David Nye, who represent a victim of such abuse-the church has continued to use Santa Barbara as a dumping ground for their problem priests to the present day. In fact, the attorneys argue, when assessed on a per capita basis, Santa Barbara County-at one point or another home to 31 alleged offenders and more than 60 victims-may regrettably boast “one of the highest” number of priestly pedophiles in the history of the sexual abuse scandal that since the 1990s has been rocking one of the planet’s oldest, wealthiest, and most powerful institutions. In comparison to other counties, Santa Barbara has five times as many cases as Orange, four times as many as Los Angeles, and at least twice as many as Boston, which until now has been considered the center of these allegations. Many remember when Santa Barbara made national headlines in the early 1990s for the St. Anthony’s Seminary sexual abuse scandal-which is disturbingly outlined in this report-but these charges, if true, could make Santa Barbara the poster child for a community done wrong by the Catholic Church. The shocking papers-which include 48 pages of information based on two years of investigation that drip with lurid details and scandalous charges of high-level conspiracy-were filed as part of the process to get the defendant in the case publicly named. State law contends that because sexual abuse charges are so heated, the plaintiff in a civil case must show a certain amount of evidence before the defendant can be identified. In this case, there’s no other possible defendant than the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which oversees the Catholic community of Santa Barbara, though the judge has not yet allowed the archdiocese to be officially named. The attorneys are further arguing that because the Catholic Church has not informed the community when such priests are brought into the area-as evidenced in last month’s discovery by the Dallas Morning News that an alleged molester from Canada named Gerald Chumik had been living at the Santa Barbara Mission for more than a year-the church is creating a “public nuisance,” potentially harming individuals and the community at large. Since the statute for criminal charges has passed, the attorneys are attacking the church as a type of corporation, where the hierarchy-regardless of whether they personally caused the problem or not-is still responsible for past wrongs of their predecessors. It’s analogous to suing a company for environmental pollution created years ago if the effects still harm a community. Yet in this case, explained Hale, it’s likely that when the evidence eventually comes out, the current hierarchy may be just as at fault for this pattern of conduct as the hierarchy that started it. He points to Chumik as a recent example. The report charges that abusive priests have served at almost every Catholic institution in S.B. County. In addition, it alleges that abuse has taken place at Hendry’s Beach, campgrounds near Cambria, Lake Cachuma, and Carpinteria, and also in victims’ homes. Furthermore, Father James Ford of the San Roque parish is named as a defendant in a current molestation case and Father James Kearney, who was reassigned from the San Lorenzo Prayer Center in Santa Ynez just last year, was identified as a defendant in similar cases. Evidence is also presented that this is a long-standing pattern in the church, whereby those who were sexually abused enter the priesthood and then abuse more children. Such was the case with former priest Robert Van Handel, who served an eight-year sentence for molesting St. Anthony’s choir boys and was released in 2002. The current plaintiff, referred to simply as “John Roe 4,” is charging that he was abused by Father Matthew Kelly of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the early 1970s during visits to the priest’s Santa Ynez Valley cabin. But 10 years before then, other priests, community members, and neighbors of Kelly apparently knew of his fondness for young boys and some even told his superiors so, the filing claims. Yet nothing was done about his “strange behavior,” alleges the report, which paints a picture of the Catholic Church in Santa Barbara as a known refuge for those “problem priests.” Indeed, certain auxiliary bishops are even shown to be covering for the molesters and fellow priests appear to routinely downplay the significance of alleged abuses. “There were so many opportunities for them to be honest and forthcoming, so many children could have been saved,” said Hale, who explained that the mediation process in this case is coming to a close, and pretrial actions are soon to start. “The plaintiff is just one of many examples.” Calls to the archdiocese’s attorneys were not returned by press deadline. Source:

Leave a Reply