The "Sins" of the Father
While Catholic Priests Raped Orange County Children, Pope John Paul II
Looked the Other Way
By Gustavo Arellano
The OC Weekly
May 19, 2005
[See also other
articles by Gustavo Arellano.]
Pope John Paul II knew. Many shocking stories of priestly sex abuse and
their subsequent cover-ups are emerging from the once-secret Diocese of
Orange priest personnel files. On May 17, a Los Angeles Superior Court
judge ordered their release as part of the record-breaking $100 million
settlement reached between the Orange diocese and victims of its pedophilic
But from the more than 10,000 pages of documents, by far the most damning
account is found in merely four pages: Pope John Paul II knew.
The disturbing revelation is included in the papers of Father Andrew Christian
Andersen, who pleaded guilty in 1986 to 26 counts of molesting four boys
while working at St. Bonaventure in Huntington Beach. One item is an August
10, 1987, note by Monsignor Oscar Rizzato, then the Secretariat of State
for the Vatican, to the Orange diocese. The Secretariat of State, as the
Vatican's website describes it, is the arm of the Holy See's bureaucracy
"which works most closely with the Supreme Pontiff in the exercise
of his universal mission."
Rizzato's letter is brief: just an acknowledgement that the Vatican had
received two letters from a non-Catholic outraged at the Orange diocese's
handling of the Andersen case. As previously reported in the Weekly (see
Cop, Bad Church," Feb. 20, 2004), church officials stymied the
efforts of Huntington Beach police detectives who wanted to interview
Andersen about the molestation claims. But the man's letter had nothing
to do with that incident; instead, according to an undated letter, the
man wrote to John Paul II "out of desperation and heartache."
The unnamed man (church officials blacked out his name) told John Paul
II about the havoc unleashed after a deacon abused his brother during
the 1970s. The man also expressed disappointment that many St. Bonaventure
parishioners and church leaders continued to support Andersen even after
he admitted to the molestation charges and visited the Servants of the
Paracletes facilities in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, a remote compound
where Catholic Church officials would send child-molesting priests for
counseling. "If the Catholic Church would punish Father Anderson
[sic] instead of hiding him in some small church in New Mexico,"
the man wrote, "perhaps others will look on child abuse as a real
threat. I know we are not supposed to be judgemental [sic] and we are
to feel compassion, especially for the ill which Father Anderson [sic]
is, but is this 'out of sight, out of mind' method of dealing with the
crime derived from Godly compassion or mortal embarrassment?"
His Holiness did not answer.
On June 4, 1987, the unnamed man re-sent his original letter to John Paul
II along with another plea. "Although I have never been a Catholic
member I have always looked to the Pope as a symbol of the true and pure
belief in God and Christ," the man confessed. "I guess I need
reassurance that you believe in what you say and the Bible's teachings
and believe that the children are a great blessing from God that need
our protection and love, not only when it is popular but more so when
it is not."
His Holiness did not answer.
Instead, Rizzato forwarded the letters to Orange, noting, "no reply
has been sent." On that note, an unnamed diocesan official scribbled,
"Michael—I will answer if you'd like—but, due to the
contents, you might want to." The Michael in question was Michael
Driscoll, then head of priest personnel affairs for the Orange diocese,
now Bishop of Boise, Idaho. There is nothing in Andersen's files showing
that Driscoll or the Vatican ever responded to the unnamed man's concerns.
A couple of years later, Andersen himself wrote to John Paul II, asking
that the Holy See defrock him for his pedophilia. The contents of that
letter are not known—the Orange diocese has yet to turn it over.
But whatever the Vatican's response, Monsignor Rizzato's inaction is another
example of John Paul II's demonic legacy when it comes to the sex-abuse
scandal destroying Catholic America. In an extraordinary essay for the
June issue of Vanity Fair, John Paul II biographer John Cornwall argued
that the Church will never truly deal with priestly pedophilia until the
hierarchy radically alters the approach instituted by the man born Karol
Wojtyla. According to Cornwall, John Paul II did not blame individual
priests and their conniving superiors for committing and aiding the rapes
of innocents—instead, he pointed the finger at the "mystery
"The comment distances the perpetrators, and indeed the Church, from
responsibility," Cornwall wrote, "for it implies that the priests
in question did not set out to abuse young people but were enticed to
do so by Satan."
That's the philosophical view endorsed to this day by Orange Bishop Tod
D. Brown. During a May 17 press conference at Los Angeles' Central Civil
West Courthouse following the release of the priest personnel files, Brown
constantly referred to the inaction of his diocese and underlings when
employees molested children as a "sin." Surrounded by Orange
diocese flacks and a clueless media, no one challenged His Eminence's
Finally, one sex-abuse survivor spoke up. From the back of the conference
room, he asked Brown why he didn't call the cover-up a crime.
Brown again expressly apologized for the "sins" of his church,
and then he moved on.
To download the .pdf file containing the Rizzato memo and the letters
to Pope John Paul II, click