When a sex scandal broke in the Spring of 1992 at St. Joseph Elementary School in Placentia, both parents and teachers raised their arms in outrage. The principal of the elementary school – a former Vicentian – was behind the controversy, which stemmed from the administrative figure’s distasteful habit of physically and verbally assaulting female teachers. Parents wanted the man gone, and they were only consoled by a promise from Monsignor J. Urell (the secretary to then-Bishop N. McFarland) which stated that the principal had “taken a leave of absence to care for an ailing family member,” and that Urell did not know when the principal would return.
It’s been more than 15 years since the controversy at St. Joseph Elementary School, and only this week has the public learned of the secrets connected to the scandal. Behind the allegations of assault on Ruhl’s end, the principal was also a pedo-priest who went into hiding almost immediately after the accusations of verbal and physical assault began in 1992. This week, personnel files were released by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles; personnel files which reveal that Urell and the Orange diocese knew full well that the principal was a pedo-priest. Up until now, the authorities were never alerted of this information, nor was the public. In fact, evidence shows that the “inconvenient” secret was intentionally withheld to protect Ruhl’s reputation.
Reports from 1993 and 2005 more than suggest that the sexually inappropriate acts taken by Ruhl were inarguably abusive in nature – many of which are too detailed to reference here. Reports also indicate that Urell and the Orange diocese were fully aware of the issues going on regarding Urell’s behaviors, yet they never reported these incidents to the police. Furthermore, Urell never attempted to come forth with the truth about where Ruhl went when he reportedly left to “care for an ailing family member.”
Sexual abuse scandals connected to the Orange diocese date back as far as the 1970s, and Urell has been there for most of them. Remarkably, the priest remains in good standing with the Orange diocese and is still a prominent member of St. Timothy in Laguna Niguel. For the Catholic Church, Ruhl’s sex scandal is yet another in a long line of sexually incriminating behaviors that have been connected to the church for more than four decades now. It is an issue of which our California child sexual abuse attorneys are well aware. We are actively following the findings of this case and many more like it. If you were victimized by child sex abuse at the Catholic Church, we urge you to come forward to discuss the matter with a lawyer at our office. We can meet for a private, confidential consultation to discuss the details of your case and review the options available to you at this time.