Child Victims Act sunsets on Dec. 31

Pasadena Star News [Pasadena CA]

May 7, 2022

By John Crawford

Some years back a horrific scandal hit the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world. Shocking revelations of child sexual abuse by clerics, first emerging in Boston in 2002, spread like wildfire as it was also discovered that church leaders offered sanctuary to their pedophile priests for years at a time.

Justice was difficult. There was resistance to these explosive charges even at the most elite levels of the Catholic hierarchy. An Associated Press article, “Papal spokesman likens sex abuse allegations to anti-Semitism,” published in 2010, began this way:

“At a solemn Good Friday service, Pope Benedict XVI’s personal preacher likened the tide of allegations that the pontiff has covered up sex abuse cases to the ‘more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.’ But within hours, facing a storm of criticism at the comparison, the Vatican felt it necessary to distance the pope from the preacher’s remarks.”

However, as the tsunami of accusations continued, the Catholic Church realized it needed to own up to what was their responsibility. In 2013 Cardinal Roger Mahony, who ran the Archdiocese of Los Angeles during that dark era, issued an extensive apology to the victims. It included this sadly revealing passage:

“Those visits were heart-wrenching experiences for me as I listened to the victims describe how they had their childhood and innocence stolen from them by clergy and by the Church. At times we cried together, we prayed together, we spent quiet moments in remembrance of their dreadful experience; at times the victims vented their pent up anger and frustration against me and the Church.”

Obviously things were not going well for Mahony. Documents showing he had worked diligently to cover up these crimes didn’t help. In addition to being personally subjected to victim wrath, Mahony also needed to help come up with the wherewithal to cover a massive $660 million settlement the Archdiocese had negotiated.

Now you might believe this is where it all ended. There are some who encourage that. But it’s not true.

It is believed there are still thousands of such victims who have yet to surface. In recognition Sacramento signed into law a bill called the California Child Victims Act in 2019 to extend the statute of limitations for those specific crimes for three years. It sunsets this December.

In order to encourage those remaining persons to finally come forward, a law firm, Jeff Anderson and Associates, has mounted an extensive social media outreach campaign explaining the consequences of remaining silent. This firm has also produced a series of short videos identifying offending priests and their associations with Los Angeles area Catholic institutions.

Locally, three of these videos deal with Passionist priests associated with the Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in Sierra Madre. I am reposting the videos to my website Sunday morning, but here are brief descriptions of what they contain.

Accused priest Henry Xavier Vetter: Four survivors came forth alleging child sex abuse from 1953 to 1973. He later fled to Mexico and vanished. Accused priest John Baptist Ormechea: Also accused of molesting minors. As of 2017 Fr. Ormechea was thought to be working at the Vatican in Rome. Accused priest Joseph Stadtfeld: Two young girls accused Fr. Stadtfeld of sexual abuse  at the Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center. Both lawsuits were settled in 2007.

The purpose of these videos is not to revisit the horrors of the past. Rather it is to encourage those who were preyed upon to find some justice before the opportunity is gone. People likely now well into middle age, and might have decided they will need to live with their terrible secret forever.

John Crawford publishes the Sierra Madre Tattler.