Home Gave Aid to Clergy
Cherry Valley: The Site, Now Closed, Helped Priests Suffering from Pedophilia and Depression
By Steve Moore
Press Enterprise [Riverside, CA]
June 3, 2002
Cherry Valley — A retirement home for Catholic priests, including ones who had been accused of sexual abuse, operated in rural Cherry Valley for about 20 years until it closed last year.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Retreat helped priests suffering from pedophilia, chronic depression and the effects of old age. It attracted little notice in this unincorporated community of 5,000 in the hills overlooking Beaumont where people mind their business and tend their horses and fruit orchards.
The Servants of the Paraclete, a religious group that works with troubled clerics, put the property up for sale after closing it in June 2001 to consolidate operations.
At times, 10 priests lived at the retreat after being sent there by a diocese or religious order.
Some priests resist
Some priests from the Diocese of San Bernardino accused of sexual abuse balked at going to the retreat or found its treatment ineffective.
In 1993, Father Anthony Garduno denied an allegation that, while serving at St. Edward Catholic Church in Corona, he asked a man to strip and show his genitals during a pre-marriage counseling session. He was never charged with a crime.
Garduno left the diocese and went to live with his father instead of staying at the retreat.
Garduno, who visited the facility, said many priests there were depressed and no longer active in the ministry. And he didn't care for the resort atmosphere.
"You go there and disappear," Garduno said. "They would phase you out. I didn't want to spend the rest of my life doing nothing." Garduno, 44, said he wanted to get on with his spiritual life. He is now monsignor at the Our Lady of Tepeyac Church in the unincorporated community of Home Gardens west of Riverside and near Corona. He said the church incorporates American Indian ritual and belongs to a Free Catholic denomination that allows priests to marry.
The Rev. Rudi Gil said he attended the retreat for "sexual identity" issues in 1993 after he resigned as pastor of St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church in Lake Elsinore amid allegations he had molested a teen-age boy. The Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the San Bernardino Diocese [see correction], has said [see correction] Gil admitted during counseling that he sexually abused a child, though Gil has never been criminally prosecuted.
Gil said a psychologist worked with him and one other priest for an hour or two each day, but Gil said he left the center after about two weeks because he believed the treatment was ineffective.
One priest sought money
One priest who came and stayed was the Rev. Joseph L. Clauss of Evansville, Ind., accused of pedophilia. Clauss lived there for eight years until it closed. While staying at the retreat, Clauss wrote parishioners in Indiana and offered to celebrate Mass for money, according to an Indiana newspaper, the Evansville Courier & Press. The newspaper said Clauss also sought donations for mission work he said he was doing on the nearby Morongo Indian Reservation.
Morongo tribal spokeswoman Waltona Manion said several tribal leaders said they had not heard of Clauss or any missionary work being done by him on the reservation.
"We feel like we've been deceived," said Margaret Gross of Evansville, who found letters sent by Clauss to her mother, according to the newspaper.
The Courier & Press said Evansville Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger announced that he will visit Clauss at the Servants of the Paraclete's New Mexico retreat, where Clauss now lives, to discuss allegations that Clauss solicited money from former parishioners.
Several calls to Clauss, 71, at the New Mexico retreat were not returned.
Use of retreats questioned
The 15-acre Cherry Valley complex has a half-dozen separate houses, a main hall and a swimming pool. It is valued at about $ 796,000, according to Riverside County assessor's records.
Lincoln said the diocese considered buying the facility as a possible retreat or priest retirement center, but didn't make an offer.
The Roman Catholic Church's use of such retreats as a haven for priests accused of sexual abuse has been questioned by church critics.
Psychiatrists at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Conn., one of a handful of treatment centers that specialize in treating clergy, have accused the Archdiocese of Boston of disregarding their advice against putting priests back into positions where they have access to "vulnerable populations."
The retired priests living in Cherry Valley posed no danger to the surrounding community, said a spokesman for the Servants of the Paraclete.
"These men were not going any place, they did not participate in any public ministry," said Father Raymond Gunzel.
That was not the case at the Servants of the Paraclete's New Mexico retreat, where priests accused of being pedophiles were allowed to work in area parishes. Nearly 200 lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse were filed against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe beginning in 1990. Gunzel said priests at the New Mexico retreat are no longer allowed to return to parish work.
The former Cherry Valley retreat sits at the end of a cul-de-sac in the 39000 block of Orchard Street.
Cherry Valley resident Patsy Reeley remembers asking about the retreat years ago.
"I was told that it was a place for 'wayward priests' with alcohol problems," she said. "But I never saw anybody there, it was a very quiet place, very obscure.
"I doubt many people knew it was a place for pedophiles."
Correction: A story in Monday's newspaper about a former Cherry Valley counseling center for Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse incorrectly attributed information about the Rev. Rudi Gil. Gil said in an interview that he had admitted during counseling that he sexually abused a teen-age boy.
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