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  Sins of the Fathers Shake Church
Cost in Trust, Expense Runs Deep

By Dorothy Korber and Joy Thompson
Times-Picayune
December 18, 1994

What of the short, pudgy, eloquent man at the center of the controversy - Llanos himself? Llanos has not spoken publicly on the case. The priest is in a residential treatment program at St. Luke Institute in Maryland, where his attorney has advised him against talking to police or the media.

Accusations of stonewalling and deception have plagued the church since the pedophilia problem caught the public eye in the mid-1980s with the case of Louisiana priest Gilbert Gauthe.

Gauthe, who had been transferred from one parish to another whenever complaints arose, was eventually convicted of molesting dozens of parish boys.

An even more notorious case hit the news in 1992, as the story of ex-priest James Porter shocked the nation. Porter, whose male and female victims numbered in the hundreds, had also been transferred frequently during the 1960s. Aware of the serious and numerous complaints against him, church officials simply moved him on.

This was a common pattern, said journalists Elinor Burkett and Frank Bruni, in their book, "A Gospel of Shame."

Confronted with a choice between justice for the victims and benevolence toward abusive priests, church leaders had consistently opted for the latter, they wrote.

Times have changed, says Coiro, the archdiocese spokesman. He points to reforms embraced by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and other Catholic bishops during their national conference last month.

"Twenty years ago, a priest with such a problem would have been thought to have a 'moral lapse,' " Coiro said. "He would have been given a penance and then sent to another parish. What was lacking was an understanding of the depth of

the priest's problem and the scarring effects of the violation on the victim. We know a lot more today."

But Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and ex-priest, said it was wrong to protect abusive priests in the past and it is wrong to protect them now.

"It was always a violation of the vow of celibacy," Sipe said. "It was always a violation of the law. Who didn't know 20 years ago that raping and molesting a child was wrong?"

Sipe, who heads the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute at St. John University in Minnesota, estimates that 2,000 to 4,000 of the nation's 50,000 priests are pedophiles.

"It's a systemic problem, not just a question of a few bad apples," he said.

"It's a problem of an institution being held accountable. There can't be accountability and secrecy at the same time."

The church has reaped a harvest of bad publicity this fall.

In Ireland, a seven-month delay by authorities in extraditing a priest to Northern Ireland brought down the coalition government.

In New Hampshire on Nov. 14, a judge said a former priest was likely to remain a sexual predator and sentenced him to as long as 67 years in prison for the rape of an altar boy and three other assaults a decade ago.

In Albuquerque, N.M., on Nov. 10, a former Santa Barbara, Calif., priest who pleaded no contest to molesting a boy hanged himself. His conviction triggered admissions of decades of child sexual abuse by a dozen priests at St. Anthony's Seminary in Santa Barbara.

In Orange County, Calif., a monsignor faced allegations that he molested two boys 15 years ago when he was principal of Mater Dei High School. He denies the allegations, and his supporters have held rallies on his behalf.

 
 

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