Detailed Account of Priest Abuse Allegations Released
By Greg Hardesty
Orange County Register
May 23, 2012
Thousands of pages of files on nine Roman Catholic priests who settled a high-profile clergy abuse lawsuits six years ago were made public Wednesday, providing a detailed look at accusations as well as instances when priests were allowed to interact with children despite their superiors knowing about the allegations.
Two of the former priests whose histories are detailed in the documents are Gus Krumm and Gary Pacheco, both defrocked Franciscan priests who served at Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church in Huntington Beach in separate assignments covering most years from the mid-1970s through the late 1990s.
Monsignor Michael Harris, former principal of both Mater Dei and Santa Margarita Catholic high schools, also turns up in the documents, in two previously sealed police reports.
Harris, the founding principal of Santa Margarita Catholic High School, was a defendant in a landmark lawsuit settled for $5.2 million in 2001 that marked the beginning of a national story involving the Roman Catholic Church and clergy sexual abuse.
A court ordered the release of the documents as part of a 2006 settlement between the Franciscan Friars of California and 25 clergy-abuse plaintiffs who sued Krumm, Pacheco and seven other friars.
The Franciscan Friars paid $28.6 million to settle the lawsuits but fought release of the documents all the way to the state Supreme Court, which declined to consider a ruling by an appellate court to release the thousands of pages of personnel records, psychological reports and other files connected to the nine accused priests.
Lawyers for plaintiffs and victim advocates heralded the long-anticipated release of the documents Wednesday.
"Men like Krumm and Pacheco should be registered sex offenders, but they're not," said Tim Hale, an attorney who represented the 25 plaintiffs, all former students at St. Anthony's Seminary in Santa Barbara, where they allege the 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," Hale said.
The documents, upwards of about 10,000 pages, will be available for viewing at www.bishop-accountability.org.
"For so long," Hale said, "the Franciscan Friars robbed the public of the ability to make informed decisions on their own as to who posed a risk to their children."
Church officials repeatedly have denied knowingly putting children at harm by keeping priests accused of molestation employed.
In the case of Krumm, for example, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange conducted two investigations and concluded that the accusations against him did not merit him being removed from Sts. Simons and Jude, where Krumm served from 1988 to 1998.
In 1994, when Michael Harris was serving as principal of Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, a man who said therapy prompted memories of abuse filed police reports in Orange and Santa Ana alleging that Harris, while principal at Mater Dei in Santa Ana, repeatedly abused him while he was at Mater Dei from 1979 to 1983.
The police reports are part of the documents released Wednesday because the same man says he also was molested by Pacheco.
According to an Orange Police Department report filed in July 1994, the sexual contact occurred three times a year during a four-year period and was initiated by Harris. Each incident lasted one to two hours, the alleged victim told police, and including kissing, touching and explicit sexual acts.
The report said the victim felt "threatened" by Harris, who left Mater Dei in 1983.
In an August 1994 report filed with the Santa Ana Police Department, the man made the same accusations against Harris.
When the officer who took the report asked why the man didn't report the sexual abuse allegations when he was a student, the man said "he was young and didn't know what to do," according to the police report.
"Besides," the report continued, "(the victim) came from a family of seven boys, and he liked the attention that Harris gave him."
Harris, once nicknamed "Father Hollywood" for his charisma and energy, has repeatedly denied all allegations of sexual abuse.
After the landmark 2001 settlement that named him and the dioceses of Orange and Los Angeles as defendants, Harris, now 65, left the priesthood.
In a civil ruling in October, an Orange County jury ruled against two brothers who alleged that Krumm molested them from 1992-94 while he was as associate pastor at Sts. Simon and Jude. The jury also cleared another former priest there, Alexander Manville, of the same allegations.
Krumm, however, was accused in 1981 of molesting a student at St. Anthony's Seminary, and by 1995, when he was at Sts. Simon & Jude, local church leaders were aware of the allegations that had been leveled against Krumm but allowed him to interact with children, documents show.
There was a settlement regarding the 1981 allegations in which the Franciscans paid Krumm's accuser. In addition, an independent inquiry found the 1981 allegations to be credible.
Parishioners at the Huntington Beach church, however, were not made aware of past allegations against Krumm until May 2002, when he admitted to "sexual misconduct" involving five adolescent boys dating back to 1973.
After his admission, Krumm was removed from the Portland church where he was serving, and he left the priesthood in 2004.
Gary Pacheco, now 65, was a priest at Sts. Simon and Jude for nine of 10 years from 1975 to 1985. He also served as a priest at St. Polycarp Catholic Church in Stanton. Pacheco has denied allegations of sexual abuse, which first surfaced in 1988.
The documents portray Pacheco as an introverted priest who interacted little with adults but who took a special interest in children, taking them on trips to Disneyland, going to birthday parties for little kids, and, in one instance, rubbing a child's belly.
One Pacheco accuser said the priest abused him while on a trip to the Anaheim theme park. That case was settled in 1997.
Another document portrayed Pacheco, who left the priesthood in 1994, as a problem drinker.
Joelle Casteix, the western regional director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, blasted church leaders for trying to keep the documents sealed.
"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."