Accused L.A. Priests Still Active
FortWayne.com [Los Angeles CA]
February 7, 2004
LOS ANGELES - At least 10 priests remain in active ministry in the nation's largest archdiocese despite lawsuits that accused them of molesting children, a newspaper reports.
Officials of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles justified their action by saying there is a lack of evidence supporting the allegations and citing, in some instances, their inability to interview the victims.
The priests have denied wrongdoing and are not under criminal investigation, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
Some of the priests are among the archdiocese's most prominent clerics, including Monsignor Richard A. Loomis, former head of clergy who oversaw misconduct allegations against priests; Monsignor Patrick Reilly in Burbank; and the Rev. Michael J. Carroll, who last week was voted man of the year in Walnut, a city in eastern Los Angeles County.
Victims' advocates criticized the archdiocese's stance, saying the church was putting the protection of priests over the safety of children.
"The problem is not false allegations," said John Manly, a Costa Mesa attorney whose firm represents dozens of alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests. "The problem is child rape. When are the bishops going to get that through their thick ecclesiastical heads?"
The priests in active ministry are among about 200 Los Angeles-area clerics who were named in lawsuits filed late last year. The lawsuits were filed after California lifted the statute of limitations for one year for older cases of sexual abuse involving minors. About 800 suits were filed statewide last year, with about 500 people suing the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
Loomis, who was vicar for clergy from 1996 to 2000, denied the accusation.
"I have not done anything wrong," he told the newspaper, adding that he did not recall the person making the allegation.
The church abuse crisis erupted two years ago in Boston and spread nationwide. The church has instituted a zero-tolerance policy that calls for removing priests from the ministry when credible allegations arise.
A spokesman for the archdiocese, Tod Tamberg, said that while many past claims of sexual abuse have been credible, "not all allegations are true or immediately credible."
Attorney Donald Steier, who represents eight of the 10 accused priests who are still active in the ministry, said a single allegation of abuse without corroborating evidence should not be enough to force a priest to leave the active ministry.
"It doesn't appear that they are a current risk to anybody, so unless there is more to it, there's still a certain presumption of innocence in this country," he said.
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