In the 330-page confidential personnel file on former priest C. Rodriguez, Rodriguez himself reveals how the church intentionally shielded his confession to molesting a minor. Only one among dozens of other priest files with similar claims of sexual indiscretions, the Rodriguez file stands out. It’s rare to read a priest’s first-person account of his own confession; it’s even rarer to read a detailed account of the deliberate steps that were taken by church officials to hide the situation from the child’s family and civil authorities.
According to Rodriguez, after hearing the priest’s confession to molesting a 16-year old boy, church officials immediately instructed Rodriguez to leave and check into a motel. The priest was advised by his religious superiors to not tell anyone where he was going and to wait for further instructions. Despite feeling like a “fugitive,” Rodriguez obediently left the state after picking up money at a Catholic retreat center, eventually ending up at a residential treatment center for troubled priests in Maryland. By the time the victim’s family went to police – one month later – Rodriguez was already safely out of the state.
Without access to Rodriguez, the police were able to do little in regard to the claims that were made against the priest, and it wasn’t long before the case was ultimately closed. Within seven months of the scandal, Rodriguez was again back at work thanks to the efforts to shield him that were made by church officials in Los Angeles (a joint effort between Rodriguez’s religious order, the Vincentians, and the L.A. archdiocese). It wasn’t long, however, before the priest’s old “habits” returned, and he reportedly molested two brothers in the same year that he returned to work.
Rodriguez was officially defrocked in 1998, but he wasn’t convicted for his abusive behaviors until 2004 – 17 years after the fact. The former priest’s 4-year stint in prison ended in 2008, at which time he was released as a registered sex offender. The 57-year old now lives in Huffington Park and has been accused of abuse in no fewer than 5 different civil lawsuits.
Rodriguez’s file is part of the second set of religious orders released over the summer – approximately half a dozen more are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks – in compliance with a settlement from 2007 in which hundreds of clergy abuse victims in Los Angeles have taken part. If you or someone you love were the victim of clergy sexual abuse in Los Angeles or anywhere else, we urge you to speak with a California clergy abuse lawyer at our office.