4 Cases Provide a Glimpse of How Archdiocese
Archdiocese officials say they are proud of how they handled the case of Father Carl Sutphin, one of seven clerics Cardinal Roger M. Mahony removed in February, forcing him to take early retirement.
Records show that Sutphin was immediately relieved of active ministry in 1991, when the archdiocese received an allegation of sexual abuse. Andrew Cicchillo, now a Phoenix Web site manager, reported Sutphin had molested him and his twin brother more than 20 years before, while the priest was associate pastor at St. Rose of Lima Church in Maywood.
Cicchillo wrote Mahony that he was breaking his silence because he had found that the priest had been reassigned to St. John's Hospital in Oxnard "with access to children 24 hours a day, in the pediatric ward. This also must present many opportunities for him to molest."
The letter prompted a call from Monsignor Timothy J. Dyer--then the archdiocese's vicar for clergy, in charge of all parish priests--who vowed that Sutphin "would not wear a collar, would be retired and would not have any duties," Cicchillo said.
Although acknowledging that he had "made some unwise decisions" in overseeing priests in the archdiocese during his five years as vicar of clergy, Dyer declined to discuss specific cases. "We're all struggling to understand what has happened and why. We know we have a problem that needs to be fixed," he said.
Sutphin was sent to St. Luke's Institute in Maryland for a five-day evaluation, then returned two months later for individual therapy that continued until June 1992, church records show.
Back in Los Angeles, he was placed on restrictive ministry: prohibited from having contact with children and assigned as chaplain to a retirement home for priests. In 1995, he was transferred to St. Vibiana's Cathedral, where he lived in the same rectory as Mahony. Sutphin moved into the new Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral with the cardinal and other priests in March 2001.
Archdiocese officials said Sutphin, 69, continued receiving regular therapy, led a 12-step program for Spanish-speaking sex abusers and ministered to downtown homeless and jail inmates.
"The priests were aware of his past, found him to be a good companion, a faithful worker in several gritty assignments for a man of his age, and we never had a hint of any inappropriate conduct," said Monsignor Kevin Kostelnik, pastor of the soon-to-open cathedral.
Mahony said he never broached the subject of sexual abuse with Sutphin at St. Vibiana's or the new cathedral.
The archdiocese has no record that anyone confronted Sutphin about a second sexual abuse allegation, in 1994.
A retired Catholic-school teacher, who asked to remain unidentified, said she had told a monsignor that Sutphin had molested her young sons during the mid-1970s.
One of the sons said in an interview that Dyer told him: "Hey, this could be embarrassing for you if this got into the paper. We could handle this in a confidential way ... and your name doesn't get thrown out there."
The retired teacher, whose sons, along with the Cicchillos, are suing the archdiocese, said she would have been treated much differently, had an allegation been lodged against her.
"Not only would I have been reported to police, I would have lost my credential to teach," she said, "and I certainly wouldn't be living with the superintendent of schools."
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