In continuing with the sordid tradition of sexual abuse that has taken place within the Roman Catholic priesthood, transgressions by sexual predators persist to burden society. Subsequently, Wednesday witnessed the release of several detailed accounts of priest abuse that had previously been kept from the public. Thousands of pages of incriminating evidence, detailing the accounts of nine Roman Catholic priests that were involved in high-profile clergy abuse lawsuits, were released this week. The documents provide an in depth look at the appalling accusations as well as instances when priests were allowed to interact with children despite their superiors knowing about the allegations.
Recent years have witnessed the sexual transgressions of a few priests tarnish the name of the entire Roman Catholic church. However, many of the details regarding past clergy abuse lawsuits have been kept from the public. The recent release of these detailed accounts of clergy abuse provide insight to a topic that is becoming a growing concern for our nation’s youth.
Included in the reports are the detailed accounts of two defrocked Franciscan priests who served at St. Simon and Jude Catholic Church in Huntington Beach. Both Gus Krumm and Gary Pacheco served at these institutions on separate assignments that spanned from the mid 1970s to the late 1990s. Their documents were released by the court because the of settlement that was reached in 2006. Subsequently, the court ordered the release of the documents on behalf of the 25 clergy abuse plaintiffs who sued Krumm, Pacheco and seven other friars.
While both Krumm and Pacheco agreed to pay the $28.6 million settlement, they were against the release of the previously mentioned documents. Accordingly, they fought the release of the documents all the way to the state Supreme Court. However, the state Supreme Court declined to consider a ruling by an appellate court to release the incriminating documents.
The release of the documents on Wednesday marked a huge victory for the lawyers of plaintiffs and victim advocates. The Wednesday release was met with jubilation by those who have worked so hard to expose the sordid truth of the Roman Catholic church. “Men like Krumm and Pacheco should be registered sex offenders, but they’re not,” said the attorney who represented the 25 plaintiffs, each of whom were former students at St. Anthony’s Seminary in Santa Barbara, where the alleged abuses occurred.
“We hope that public access to these documents will provide a sort of alternative to what should be on Megan’s Law but is not, because the Franciscan Friars didn’t turn in these priests in time for them to be criminally prosecuted,” said the attorney. Approximately 10,000 pages in length, the recently released documents include personnel records, psychological reports and other files connected to nine accused priests. By releasing the documents, advocates hope to shed light on this already dim situation.
Furthermore, said documents included detailed accounts of the transgressions committed by one Michael Harris. Otherwise referred to as Monsignor Michael Harris, the former principal of both Mater Dei and Santa Margarita Catholic high schools was mentioned in the documents released Wednesday. Harris was involved in a landmark clergy abuse lawsuit that settled for $5.2 million in 2001. It just so happened that this specific lawsuit marked the beginning of a national story involving the Roman Catholic church and clergy sexual abuse. Serving as a catalyst for further indictment, Harris’ lawsuit started a chain of events that saw numerous clergy abuse cases come to the public’s attention.
According to the documents detailing Harris‘ 1994 case, a man filed charges for the repeated sexual abuse he suffered from at the hands of Harris while he was a principal at Mater Del from 1979 to 1983. The man, who said therapy prompted memories of abuse, filed police reports in Orange and Santa Ana. The police reports are part of the documents released Wednesday because the same alleged victim says he also was molested by Pacheco.
Detailed accounts citing Krumm’s lawsuits were also included in the documents that were released Wednesday. According to the reports, Krumm was accused in 1981 of molesting a student at St. Anthony’s Seminary. Compounding the already heinous allegations, were acknowledgements by local church leaders who were aware of Krumm’s actions, yet continued to allow him to work with children.
Allegations in the 1981 case were put to rest when the Franciscans decided to settle and pay off Krumm’s accuser. However, an independent inquiry found the 1981 allegations to be credible. Also acknowledged in the released documents was a May 2002 report in which Krumm admitted to “sexual misconduct” involving five adolescent boys dating back to 1973. Following his admission, Krumm was forced from the priesthood two years later in 2004.
Documents detailing Gary Pacheco’s past lawsuits acknowledge a sense of introversion. The ex-priest, now 65, worked out of Sts. Simon and Jude for nine of 10 years between 1975 and 1985. He also served as a priest at St. Polycarp Catholic Church in Stanton. However, documents suggest that allegations against Pacheco first surfaced in 1988. According to the reports, Pacheco was an introverted priest who focused all of his attention on the youth of his perish. Interacting seldom with adults, Pacheco would take children on trips to Disneyland, going to birthday parties for little kids, and, in one instance, rubbing a child’s belly.
In one particular case, Pacheco was accused of abusing a child while attending the popular Anaheim theme park. Subsequently, the case was settled in 1997.
Joelle Casteix, the Western regional director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, chastised church officials for trying to keep the documents from reaching the public.
“My biggest fear is that people at Sts. Simon and Jude and the Diocese of Orange will say that this is old news,” said Casteix, a victim of abuse in the Catholic Church. “Unfortunately, it’s not. If the Franciscans were willing to spend the time and the money to go all of the way to the California Supreme Court to keep these documents secret, they think the same thing I do: there may be more victims.”
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