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  Two Priests: One Sorry, Other Battling to Stay in His Calling

By Joe Gutierrez
Press Enterprise [Riverside, CA]
May 2, 1993

They are two men of the cloth, Catholic priests who wear the stain of being accused of sexual misconduct with minors.

One, now in jail, is remorseful and sorry for the harm he caused to his altar boy victims, their families and his former San Bernardino parishioners.

The other was initially defiant and has now resigned from his post at a Catholic church in Lake Elsinore.

The Rev. Edward L. Ball's orange jail jumpsuit is a far cry from the black suit and starched white collar he wore as pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in San Bernardino.

The 54-year-old cleric is serving a nine-month sentence in the San Bernardino County jail in Etiwanda for felony lewd conduct with two of his altar boys to which he pleaded guilty and a third lewd conduct charge to which he pleaded no contest. Ball is trying to have his sentence reduced because of recurring medical problems. He is asking to be sent to a private facility in Maryland where he would receive more intensive counseling for his sexual problems.

Ball said he is suffering from diverticulitis, an inflammation of the diverticulum, a condition marked by the formation of small pouches along the border of the colon. He said the jail food makes him sick and has been unable to get medicine regularly for intestinal problems caused by the disease.

He has asked to be sent to St. Luke Institute in Suitland, Md., where he would be confined and treated for six months, making his incarceration longer than his current nine-month sentence. The former convent, located outside Washington, D. C., is one of the few facilities in the country that specializes in treating clergy who are sexually attracted to children.

The court will hold a hearing tomorrow on his petition.

Ball declined to speak about his case during a brief jailhouse interview at the West Valley Detention Center in Etiwanda last week. But in court documents he said he was sorry for his actions - especially toward one family, whose son he was convicted of fondling.

"I'm sure they have a sense of betrayal. What I did maybe throws them over the line between love and hate. It's frustrating because there's nothing I can do but pray," Ball stated in a pre-sentencing probation report. "I'll attend a sexoholic program for the rest of my life. " The Rev. Rudi Gil, former pastor of St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church in Lake Elsinore, has resigned after initially being critical about the diocese's handling of the complaint of an incident that allegedly occurred six years ago.

Gil said he was also fighting to maintain an active role in the diocese instead of being retired.

Two weeks ago, diocese officials announced during Masses at the church that Gil had been put on paid leave and said that Gil had resigned after an allegation of sexual misconduct had been leveled against him. The diocese is conducting an internal review.

In a written statement read to his former congregation during a candlelight vigil Friday evening, Gil affirmed his resignation and told them to accept his replacement with the same respect and support they gave him.

But Gil, in his 40s, said as recently as Thursday morning that he never resigned. Later that day, according to Monsignor Donald Webber, Gil submitted his written resignation after meeting with Bishop Philip Straling.

Gil acknowledged he approved the statement read during the Masses April 17 and 18.

He criticized church hierarchy for making the announcement. He said he approved it only because he felt he had no choice.

"Anybody can sit back and make an allegation," Gil said. "I become the victim. They think it (the controversy) will die down soon. But when you ruin the life of a man and his livelihood, you have got to pay a price for that. " Webber said Gil was not pressured to approve the diocese's statement. "We don't do these things unilaterally," he said. "We are a caring community. We would not do this without his permission. " Gil claimed the diocese was treating him more harshly than others and that it should not have announced the allegations publicly.

"It's a witch hunt," Gil said this week, before the meeting.

"There's a lot of priests running scared out there. It's like the grim reaper visiting the diocese. " Diocese spokesman the Rev. Howard Lincoln said, "The diocese is not engaged in any witch hunts. I think we're trying to demonstrate that we confront these matters and we're dealing with them. " The diocese has been criticized for its handling of the case of Ball by the families of the two altar boys Ball was charged with fondling.

A parent of one of the victims said the church should have been more vigilant, especially after learning that Ball had told probation officials that approximately 13 years earlier Ball had been "involved," in his words, "with two teen-age boys who were altar boys. " Ball was quoted in the report as saying the involvement "occurred sporadically over a period of one year. " Ball stopped it himself because he felt guilty and realized he was hurting people.

"After I stopped, I never reported it. I had this terrible guilty feeling and this realization of hurting people, I stopped also because it was not what my life should be," Ball was quoted in the probation report as saying.

Little is known about those alleged incidents because neither Ball nor the victims reported the incidents and the deputy district attorney who prosecuted Ball said it was too late to bring charges.

"There was no point. It had already passed the statute of limitations," said Frank Vanella of the San Bernardino County district attorney's office.

Ball was assigned to the San Bernardino diocese 14 years ago by his church order, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, whose headquarters is in Illinois.

Ball had a history of befriending vulnerable families within the parish at Our Lady of Fatima, specifically where there were stability problems with the family or only one parent, according to the probation report. Ball would befriend young adolescent boys, invite them to his home to spend the night, according to the probation report.

The two victims from Our Lady of Fatima said that over a two-year period they had worked closely with Ball, helping him do work at his home and in his yard, court documents said, and both youths were quoted as saying they often slept over at Ball's home.

Court documents said they told of separate incidents in which Ball had given them massages and tried to fondle their genitals and kiss the boys. The court documents said both youths said that Ball never forced himself upon them and stopped his advances once the boys said no.

Both youths were initially afraid to tell their parents, fearing that their families would not believe them.

Ball was active in the diocese, conducting several projects and had been named vicar of San Bernardino, enabling him to represent the bishop in the San Bernardino area, Webber said.

But the parents contacted authorities, who began their investigation, leading to Ball's arrest and admission to the charges.

Ball admitted to the lewd conduct, but he denied ever touching any of the youths' genitals.

Ball has received support from some of his former parishioners, who praise him for all his work to improve the parish and instill a sense of family. Several have written letters offering help.

At St. Frances, numerous congregants want Gil back. About 800 have signed a petition demanding that Gil be returned as their pastor. They held a candlelight vigil, and some spoke of demonstrating in front of the diocese if they did not get results.

Gil, a Hispanic-rights activist, initially added fuel to the unrest recently by saying he supported their actions. He attended Mass and spoke to parishioners outside afterward, urging them to stay united.

"I brought them together," Gil said of the church's Vietnamese, Hispanic and anglo communities. "Everything I worked for the last 4 1/2 years can be damaged.

"I was greeted and embraced. Some cried and wished I was back," Gil said. "I am a very popular man. I am out there with the people. I get dirty with the people. " He said prior to the reading of the statement to parishioners Friday that, without their support, the diocese "may just get rid of you (Gil)," he said. "The allegation they made has made it impossible to get a job anywhere in the United States. I am at their mercy. " Ball himself has no chance at returning to a parish.

"Father Ball would never work again in a church; certainly not in California. That will not happen," wrote the Rev. Mark McDonald, the provincial superior of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, of which Ball is a member. "We have a monastery here (in Illinois). That's most likely where he would work. "

Sexual misconduct allegations Court records and officials of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino, which serves Catholics in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, have disclosed in recent months the following: • The Rev. Edward L. Ball resigned in September from Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in San Bernardino. He pleaded guilty in December to lewd conduct with a 13-year-old altar boy and lewd conduct with a 12-year-old boy and pleaded no contest to a second charge of lewd conduct with the altar boy.

• Dennis Raymond Jost, a former volunteer coordinator of altar boys at Queen of Angels and St. Thomas Catholic churches in Riverside, pleaded guilty to a federal charge of taking a minor across state lines with intent to engage in sexual activities. He was sentenced in January to six months in federal prison and three years' probation.

The minor in the case was a young boy.

• The Rev. Paul Nguyen resigned in February as an associate pastor at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Riverside after he was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor.

• The Rev. James Stauber resigned in February from St. John's Catholic Church in Rubidoux after he was accused of having sex with a minor 22 years ago.

• The Rev. Rudi Gil resigned in April as pastor of St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church in Lake Elsinore after allegations he had sex with a minor six years ago.

 
 

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