California is inundated with civil and criminal clergy sex abuse cases. I realized it was time for an update:
Last week in Ontario, Fr. Alex Castillo was sentenced to a year in jail for lewd acts on a child. Although he was only prosecuted for his crimes against one victim, the sentencing report outlined the allegations of four other children (including the brother of the victim in the criminal case) who said that Castillo molested them.
The boy’s parents – as well as the other Castillo victims – were able to give victim impact statements at the sentencing. The scary part? In the sentencing report, Castillo’s probation officer says that the cleric has no understanding of the severity of his crimes.
In Orange County, the civil trial against Gus Krumm, Alexander Manville and the Franciscans of Santa Barbara is scheduled to start later this week. The Diocese of Orange settled their part of the case in July for $200K (possibly to clean up matters for diocese’s $53 million offer for the Crystal Cathedral). Considering that Krumm was at Saints Simon and Jude Parish for five years after the Franciscans put him on restricted ministry (but didn’t tell anyone), I believe that this trial will expose a whole lot of ugly cover-up.
Orange County may also have the rare honor of hosting simultaneous criminal and civil clergy sex abuse trials. Former cleric Denis Lyons, who was arrested in 2009 on four felony counts of lewd acts upon a child under 14, should be sitting in the defendant’s chair within the next couple of weeks. Lyons is no stranger to trouble: he was arrested in 2003 for sex abuse (the charges were dropped as a result of the Stogner Decision). According to Bishop-Accountability.org, the Diocese of Orange has paid out at least $4 million in settlements to Lyons’ victims.
In LA, the state of California is trying to classify former priest Michael Baker as a sexually violent predator. If they succeed, Baker, one of Los Angeles’ most prolific predator priests, can be incarcerated in a state hospital indefinitely. Additional civil cases against Baker are pending.
A civil case against former Los Angeles (via Italy and Columbia) priest Fernando Lopez-Lopez is heating up. A scathing investigation by Dan Rather Reports, All is Not Forgiven (scroll down to “Featured Stories”), showed that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles does no background checks on its priests. So, even though Lopez-Lopez had been convicted in Italy of sexual violence on a child, the only job reference that LA Archdiocese officials needed was a nice letter from Lopez-Lopez’s bishop (who, of course, knew about the conviction, but didn’t say anything).
LA Archdiocese officials had a chance to redeem themselves. But they didn’t. Even after church officials in Los Angeles learned about Lopez-Lopez’s past, they sat on the information for six months while Lopez-Lopez continued to abuse. Lopez-Lopez was deported to his home country of
Columbia Colombia in 2008. He is reportedly still there.
In the Diocese of Monterey, a new case has been filed against the diocese and William Allison, a priest who worked in the diocese in the 1960s and ’70s. Allison, who is deceased, was no stranger to trouble. The Diocese of Monterey, however, is playing coy. A diocese spokesman claimed that “it’s difficult” to find, investigate and search old clergy files, but a simple internet search will show that: 1) the Diocese of Fresno had no problem releasing Allison’s file as a part of a sex abuse civil case there, 2) There is an extensive amount of press on Allison’s time in New Mexico, and 3) The church’s own rules (Canon Law 489) require every diocese to keep permanent files on every abusive cleric, and that those files be ANNUALLY review by the bishop. But this is only the beginning of Monterey’s problems.
Monterey is also the home of accused cleric Edward Fitz-Henry, who has been sued for child sexual abuse by one boy (and accused by at least two). The Fitz-Henry case is disturbing on many levels. After the latest victim came forward, we discovered that there was at least one other accusation of abuse that was deemed “credible,” Fitz-Henry has spent time at a church-run facility that treats child-molesting clerics, and a visiting priest was removed for not reporting the victim’s allegations. Despite all of this, some parishioners at Fitz-Henry’s parish put up a disturbing website that maligns the victim and alienates whistleblowers. Yuck. Fortunately, a police investigation is continuing.
Bay Area – Fresno
The newest member of the California Clergy Sex Abuse Powder Keg is Fr. Don Flickinger. Flickinger worked in the Dioceses of Fresno and San Jose and the Archdiocese of San Francisco during his 40-year career as a priest. The sex abuse lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, cites more than 15 witnesses who corroborate claims of Flickinger’s predatory behavior (including pulling freshman boys out of class and asking them about masturbation). When the lawsuit was filed, Flickinger was exposed living at an Archdiocese of San Francisco parish with a school. According to press reports, Flickinger is back in Fresno. Oddly, the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Diocese of San Jose have put out statements denying all responsibility for Flickinger (note, Flickinger was listed in the 2011 Official Catholic Directory at St. Paul’s Parish in San Francisco and was listed on the website until the lawsuit was filed).
I am sure there are cases that I have overlooked. But I am always open to a Part 3.