Despite priest’s dark past, he was given ample time to find new victims

Early in 2001, a young priest arrived in Southern California after being asked to leave his diocese near Rome.

The Rev. Fernando Lopez Lopez first went to the San Bernardino diocese, where a monsignor found it odd that he would show up unannounced, with no letter of explanation from his bishop.

The monsignor checked with church officials in Italy and was told Lopez Lopez had been asked to leave his post. When the monsignor confronted Lopez Lopez with this information, the priest admitted he had been asked to leave because of complaints from parishioners in Tivoli that he was involved in drug activity with young men in the church. There were also reports the priest was “homosexually involved with some of the young men of the youth group.” Lopez Lopez denied the allegations and also said the youths in question were over 18.

The monsignor in San Bernardino refused to assign the priest to duties in the diocese and suggested he go back to Italy. Instead, Rev. Lopez Lopez headed farther west and decided to try his luck with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

This time, even as L.A. church officials were trying to stem a spreading sexual abuse scandal, he wasn’t met with the same level of suspicion and didn’t admit to his past. And for unknown reasons, the same Italian bishop who told San Bernardino that Lopez Lopez had been asked to leave, this time signed a form for the L.A. Archdiocese indicating there were no problems in the priest’s past.

Rev. Lopez Lopez got the job and was assigned to St. Thomas the Apostle near Koreatown, where he was routinely in contact with minors. It was there, over the next three years, that he repeatedly molested three teenagers, including two minors. He was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to prison, then deported upon his release to his home country of Colombia.

All this bubbles back up now for two reasons. First, a lawsuit against the priest, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and the archdiocese is scheduled to be heard in October. And second, “Dan Rather Reports” aired an investigative piece Tuesday night claiming that Lopez Lopez had an even darker past than was previously known.

Rather reported that according to an Italian court official, Lopez Lopez pleaded guilty in 2000 to “repeated sexual violence on a minor.”

If true, it’s morally shocking that such a priest would have been allowed to stay in ministry, but not surprising. If anything has been more reprehensible than the decades of sexual abuse by priests, it has been the attempts by the Catholic church to shuffle pedophiles to new parishes and cover up as much of the mess as possible.

So Rev. Lopez Lopez ends up in California, where he seemed to have no trouble finding new victims.

Attorney J. Michael Hennigan, speaking for Mahony and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, argues that his clients did no wrong and said they tried to check on Lopez Lopez’s past. But even if you give them a pass for not being as suspicious as the monsignor in San Bernardino, there’s another little bombshell in this story.

The San Bernardino monsignor, Gerard Lopez, sent a letter to one of Mahony’s key deputies on Jan. 8, 2004, after learning that the same priest he turned away in 2001 had been working in Los Angeles. The monsignor warned L.A.’s vicar of clergy about what he had learned of the priest’s background.

But it wasn’t until nine weeks after the letter was sent to Los Angeles that Mahony’s staff sent a letter to the bishop in Tivoli, asking about Lopez Lopez.

“If your Excellency would be so disposed, may we inquire as to whether there are any issues … that would cast any shadow of doubt upon Father Lopez’s priestly integrity and ministry while serving in the Diocese of Tivoli?”

Would his Excellency be so disposed?

Why are church officials so sickeningly polite with each other about the business of children being abused?

How about picking up the phone, instead of sending a letter to Italy, and demanding an immediate explanation?

How about calling the pope?

And how about yanking Lopez Lopez out of the ministry immediately when a warning letter arrives from San Bernardino, until the entire matter is settled?

Hennigan tells me there was nothing to go on but unsubstantiated allegations involving people 18 or over. He said church officials questioned the principal at St. Thomas and also Lopez Lopez, who suggested the monsignor in San Bernardino had misunderstood him regarding what happened in Tivoli. Hennigan also said the church immediately removed Lopez Lopez from ministry when it received an allegation that the priest had molested a kid, and church officials called the police too. That was on July 13, 2004.

The half a year between the arrival of the letter from San Bernardino and the removal of Lopez Lopez is when “some of the worst of the abuse took place,” said Vince Finaldi, the attorney who represents the unnamed victim who has sued the church.

When Lopez Lopez was convicted in 2005 of four felony counts of lewd acts with a child and one felony count of sexual battery, among other counts, Cardinal Mahony wrote a letter to the Vatican suggesting it might be a good idea to dismiss him from the priesthood.

Mahony, never shy about polishing his own image, specified in the letter that Lopez Lopez certainly wouldn’t have been hired in Los Angeles if Tivoli had mentioned his past. Mahony told the Vatican the church’s investigation of Lopez Lopez “began promptly following the initial accusation” of abuse.

Yes, and it took only six months after the letter from San Bernardino to get him away from children.

Book Available Worldwide and as a Kindle eBook

Hello again everyone!

I’ll bet some of you are surprised to hear from me again so soon. While others are probably wondering, “what in the world does he mean by ‘hello AGAIN’?”

Last week when I sent out my rather breathless email titled: Help me celebrate the publication of my latest book!, I inadvertently sent it out using my publisher’s name and email address instead of my own. Apparently many of you dismissed the email as junk, because you didn’t recognize the sender’s name, or it automatically went to your spam folder where it languished and perished.

Allow me to briefly repeat last week’s announcement. I am delighted to announce that my new book: SECRECY, SOPHISTRY AND GAY SEX IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH; The Systematic Destruction Of An Oblate Priest, has been published.

But wait, there’s more good news.

  • The soft cover version of the book is now available on all the Amazon sites around the world — UK, France, Germany, Canada and Japan.
  • For all you really trendy folks out there, the Kindle version of the book is now available in the US and will be available worldwide by 07/6/11.

Like I said last week, I welcome your comments and thoughts. It’s been so heartwarming to hear from so many of you already. And remember if/when you buy the book on Amazon you are entitled to write a review. Reviews boost me in the ratings. And if I get a dozen good reviews I’ll be, in the immortal words of Marlon Brando, “a contenda”. 😉


Poland Complains to Vatican Over Priest’s Remarks

By VANESSA GERA Associated Press
WARSAW, Poland June 27, 2011 (AP)
A Polish priest and media mogul has sparked uproar in Poland by calling the country a totalitarian state that “hasn’t been ruled by Poles since 1939” — a statement many interpret as code for saying Jews are secretly running the country.

The Rev. Tadeusz Rydzyk, who has previously been accused of fomenting anti-Semitism through his politically influential, ultra-Catholic radio station Radio Maryja, made the comments at the European Parliament last week.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry sent a diplomatic note to the Vatican on Saturday accusing Rydzyk of “harming the image of Poland abroad,” the first-ever such complaint by the Polish government to the Holy See. The Vatican is the supreme authority for Rydzyk’s Redemptorist order.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi told Polish news agency PAP on Monday that Rydzyk speaks in his own name and his statements do not involve the Holy See or Poland’s Church.

He did not say if the Vatican will offer a formal reply, according to PAP.

Jerzy Buzek, the head of the EU Parliament and former prime minister of Poland, has called Rydzyk’s remarks “scandalous and unacceptable.”

Rydzyk spoke during a seminar on renewable energy last Tuesday. His remarks went largely unnoticed in Brussels but have since sparked days of debate in Poland, with weekend talk shows and newspaper opinion columns devoted to analyzing the powerful priest’s words.

Poland is preparing to take over the rotating presidency of the European Union on Friday — which Warsaw sees as a chance to improve its image on the European stage.

“The tragedy of Poland is that Poland hasn’t been ruled by Poles since 1939,” Rydzyk said, according to Polish media reports on the speech. He added that, “this isn’t an issue of blood or affiliation,” but that those who rule Poland today “do not love in a Polish way, do not have a Polish heart.”

He also said Poland today is a totalitarian and “uncivilized country.”

Though he did not mention Jews by name, his language echoed that of anti-Semites who claim that Jews hold excessive power in Poland and that Polish Jews are not “real Poles” with Polish interests at heart.

The number of Jews in Poland today is tiny. There were 3.5 million Jews in Poland before World War II, but most were murdered by Germany during the Holocaust and many of those who survived fled anti-Semitic violence and prejudice after the war.

Michael Levi, the president of Beit Warszawa, a Jewish Reform community in Warsaw, said he considered Rydzyk’s language to be anti-Semitic since it comes in the context of his support for far-right politicians and anti-Jewish remarks his radio station has aired. It is “pure hate propaganda” that encourages extremists, Levi said.

Poland also is far from being a totalitarian state. After throwing off communism 22 years ago, Poland has joined NATO and the EU and stands as a model of democratic transition that has even advised the new Tunisian leadership following the recent revolution there.

Rydzyk runs a conservative media empire that includes the Catholic station Radio Maryja and the television station Trwam, both popular among some conservative, nationalist Poles.

He was at the center of a scandal in 2007 when he was allegedly caught on tape suggesting that Jews are greedy and that then-Polish President Lech Kaczynski was subservient to Jewish lobbies.

International Jewish organizations protested his comments at the time, and were also angered when Pope Benedict XVI held a private meeting with Rydzyk that year.

Methodist clergy vow to defy church…

200 Illinois Methodist clergy vow to defy church, bless same-sex unions

June 26, 2011|By Manya A. Brachear, Tribune reporter

More than 200 United Methodist clergy in Illinois have pledged to flout church policy and bless unions for same-sex couples, putting their jobs, homes and callings in jeopardy if couples take advantage of their offer.

Methodists in the Northern Illinois Conference also called on the global church to impose no more than a 24-hour suspension for clergy who defy the policy.


Listen to those sinned against

An underlying theme of the shameful story of clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church has been the neglect of the victims. At last this is changing, and next year’s intense study of the whole issue being organised at the Gregorian University in Rome will mark a watershed in the way this aspect is treated. The proposed symposium has the support of the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, and will bring together experts and those with pastoral experience in the field.

So far there are no plans to include victims themselves, which would be a loss. It is not simply that they need to be heard as part of a possible healing process. The marginalisation of victims represented a mindset whose origins lay in traditions of Catholic spirituality that emphasised the avoidance of sin and the recovery of sinners through penance and repentance. That mindset implied that the real tragedy of an act of sexual abuse by a priest lay in the defilement of the priestly office by the commission of an act of unchastity, rather than a grave and possibly permanent psychological injury inflicted upon an innocent and defenceless child.

Those with that mindset, blinded by the lesser evil, could not see the greater. It meant the Church, in response to acts of abuse that came to official notice, gave priority to the treatment of the transgressor and forgot about the one transgressed. This was the very essence of the clericalist deformity of ways of thinking and acting in the Church that prepared the way for all the scandals of cover-up, denial and deception.

By no means everyone in the Church has learned this lesson. The Rosminian order has failed to respond adequately to reve­lations of sexual abuse at one of its institutions in Africa. One priest involved was one of the best-known Catholic priests in London, the late Fr Kit Cunningham of St Etheldreda’s, Ely Place. Before he died, he even returned his MBE to Buckingham Palace because he felt it had been awarded under false pretences. Those whom he had served and who had loved him in London have found it hard to believe he was capable of such crimes: perhaps the knowledge of his own depravity could have added to his sensitivity as a pastor; it almost certainly lay behind his heavy drinking. It was only the surfacing of some of his victims years later, however, that exposed his true history to public view. The Cunningham case confirms what a unique and essential service to the Church victims proffer, yet it is one that the Church has barely recognised.

One key speaker at the Gregorian event will be Baroness (Sheila) Hollins, the former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists who took part in the pontifical visitation of the Irish Catholic Church. She has played a central role in placing victims at the centre of the Church’s concern. She has said that in her professional experience, men who become child abusers were invariably abused themselves when they were children. This raises the question, urgently calling for further research, into how many priest abusers were themselves abused in childhood (but not necessarily by priests). If this import­ant link in the chain of causality has been missed, that is one more damaging consequence of marginalising the victims.