Catholic guilt

New Times

A document dump reveals local aspects of the church’s sex abuse scandal


It is unfortunate that he has been guilty of improper actions on two or three occasions … but how many priests are there completely blameless over a period of 10 years?”

The above words were penned in 1980 by Juan Arzube, a now-deceased bishop in the Catholic Church’s Los Angeles Archdiocese, which governs parishes in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties. Arzube wrote to Rome pleading that Father Willebaldo Castro be allowed to transfer home to Mexico and remain in the ministry following the latest allegation of the priest’s sexual deviancy.

That time, according to the letter, Castro had been arrested after approaching a security guard—presumably for sex—in a Pomona department store bathroom, but previous troubles include a vague “moral charge” from his early years in Mexico and the accusations of molestation of teenage boys in Los Angeles and Santa Maria—incidents that were described in his private clergy file and made public with the recent release of 12,000 pages detailing the church’s internal handling of 128 priests accused of abuse.

The release stems from a 2007 settlement of 508 lawsuits that blamed 194 priests and bishops in the L.A. Archdiocese for the sexual abuse of underage victims. The church agreed to pay $660 million, an average settlement of $1.3 million per victim, and a federal judge ordered that the files on accused clergy be made public, with privacy protections built in for victims. At first, members of church hierarchy were also to be protected, but another judge later ordered that their names be included as well. The files were collected, redacted, and finally made available on the L.A. Archdiocese website Jan. 31, 2013.

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