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  Priest Who Molested Boys Gets 6 Years for Probation Violations

By Kristina Horton and Tracy Weber
Orange County Register
July 19, 1990

A Superior Court judge promised four years ago to send convicted child molester Rev. Andrew Christian Andersen to prison for six years if he failed to stay away from children. Wednesday, the judge kept his promise.

Andersen, freed on probation in 1986 after 26 convictions for molesting four Huntington Beach altar boys, admitted Wednesday to Judge Luis A. Cardenas that he broke the rules barring him from unsupervised contact with children.

Cardenas told Andersen, "I gave you a chance to straighten your life out. You let me down. I looked you right in the eye, Father Andersen. I gave you a chance."

Andersen, a former parish priest at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Huntington Beach, was arrested March 12 in New Mexico on allegations of kidnapping and trying to molest a 14-year-old boy. He has not been charged in the Albuquerque incident.

While he denies any criminal charges, the 38-year-old Roman Catholic priest told his lawyer that he deserves Cardenas' punishment.

"He thinks that he ended up breaking his agreement with Cardenas so he got what was coming," said William Monroe, Andersen's attorney. "He was with this 14-year-old kid."

Wednesday's hearing, quietly held two days ahead of schedule, lasted no more than 10 minutes in the Westminster courtroom. Afterward, Cardenas said he was "gravely disappointed" with the final outcome of the case.

"I have criminals make promises to me all the time. This was different," the judge said in an interview later. "It was the type of case that led all of us to believe that here's the kind of person you take a chance on."

But Cardenas said he since has learned that pedophiles are rarely if ever cured. "If I'd known that, maybe I would have been more skeptical," he said.

"Now I realize that maybe me thinking I could ever correct his problem was wishful thinking," the judge said. "The man's sick, and apparently there's no cure."

The Rev. James Urell, the Diocese of Orange chancellor, expressed the diocese's "sorrow for the hurt to all who have been effected by his actions" and "concern for Chris in his struggle to deal with his problems."

Andersen has been suspended from performing as a priest.

The first report of Andersen molesting boys was in 1983 when church officials at St. Bonaventure sent him to a counselor, rather than to the police.

Three years later, Cardenas convicted Andersen on the 26 counts of molesting a 13-year-old and three 12-year-old altar boys. The judge placed Andersen on five years probation, and ordered him to complete a Catholic treatment program for priests with emotional problems, including pedophilia, in New Mexico.

Andersen told a probation officer in 1986, "In looking back at the situations, I am not only filled with remorse but deeply aware of the damage and harm the situation has caused so many people."

He told authorities that shame over early homosexual encounters inspired him to join the priesthood at age 22. He then sought emotional closeness, not sexual gratification, with the young boys.

But the parents of the Huntington Beach altar boys never accepted his explanation.

And Wednesday's sentencing reopened wounds that tore apart the St.

Bonaventure parish in 1986. The molestation case pitted Andersen's supporters and the parents of the molested children against one another.

Some supporters denied the molestations ever took place, even after Andersen's conviction, while the victims' parents felt five years' probation amounted to a wrist slap.

Most of the parents said they planned to attend Andersen's probation-violation hearing as scheduled Friday, but were unaware the court date had been advanced to Wednesday.

"Once again I feel I've been betrayed," said the mother of one victim. "We did not have the opportunity to be heard or to see Father Chris was in even a small way paying for what he did.

"We feel Father Chris should receive as many years as our family will suffer," she said. "It's going to be a lifetime for the children."

Monroe said the priest had asked that his hearing be moved up to avoid a "media circus."

But Susan Davidson, executive director of the Adam Walsh Center in Westminster, felt Andersen and his attorney were avoiding the faces of his accusers. Davidson counseled the molested boys and their families in 1986.

"I think that the judge has done what he can to protect the children this time," Davidson said. "Somewhere, sometime the population at large needs to recognize the seriousness of crimes against children and adjust the severity of the sentences to be proportionate."

The probation violation stemmed from the March 12 incident in Albuquerque when authorities said the priest briefly stalked a 14-year-old boy on a downtown street before pulling him into his car and fondling him.

Orlando Torres, an assistant district attorney handling the New Mexico case, said Wednesday that he has not decided whether Andersen will be prosecuted. Torres said he was waiting for the results of Cardenas' ruling.

After his New Mexico arrest, Andersen was charged with three probation violations in Orange County, which include forcibly taking a child for purposes of criminal conduct, failure to report an arrest to his probation officer, and being in the presence of a minor without supervision.

Andersen admitted Wednesday to being in the presence of a minor and the other two violations were dropped, Monroe said.

Monroe said Andersen plans to seek treatment in prison for his attraction to children.

 
 

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