Witness: Former LA Priest Abused Student from Sex Ed Class

By Linda Deutsch
San Francisco Chronicle
January 25, 2006

Former priest Michael Wempe bonded with one of the boys he later molested while teaching a sex education class at a Catholic high school, one of his former students testified.

The alleged victim, now a 39-year-old man identified as Greg J., claimed at Wempe's molestation trial Tuesday that the priest told students in his Paraclete High School class that masturbation was "God's gift to relieve sexual tension" and demonstrated how to do it with hand motions.

Greg J., one of the grown men who told of Wempe's abuse of them as boys, said he bonded with Wempe as a teacher and golf coach.

After golf games, Greg J. said Wempe gave him massages which turned into masturbation and he tried to perform oral copulation on him. Asked why he didn't tell anyone, the witness said, "I didn't want to disappoint him or God."

He said Wempe had lured him with speeches about "how I was special in God's eyes and in his eyes."

When the intimate touching began, Greg J. said, "He reminded me what he had taught us about God's gift of masturbation ... He told me if it was not OK in God's eyes, God would not allow him to be a priest.

Greg J. said it was Wempe's stature among his peers that convinced him he must be telling the truth. He said he wondered: "How could somebody who was so well liked do something wrong?"

Greg J. testified after other men said Wempe trapped them in a web of sexual molestation that began in their childhoods and continues to shadow their lives today.

Wempe's attorney, Leonard Levine, who gently cross-examined the witnesses and voiced no objections to any of the prosecutor's questions, has admitted that his client molested 13 boys in the 1970s and '80s. But he maintains that Wempe is not guilty of molesting another boy in the 1990s, the case for which he is on trial. That young man was to testify later in the week

Pointing across the courtroom where the former Roman Catholic clergyman was seated at the counsel table, on trial for molestation, prosecutor Todd Hicks asked a witness identified only as Jay F. how he knew Wempe.

"From a nightmare," said the 39-year-old man.

He graphically outlined a pattern of molestation that involved fondling, masturbation and oral copulation that began when he was 13 and also ensnared two of his brothers.

He said he felt "trapped and confused" during the two years that Wempe allegedly abused him.

Jay F. said he never mentioned his ordeal to anyone until 10 years ago when he blurted it out in a confessional. But the priest who heard his confession did nothing, he said.

Another victim, identified as John C., testified he has trouble remembering everything that happened to him because he was so young. He said he was molested between the ages of 5 and 7.

"It's like trying to complete a puzzle and suddenly you have a box of pieces you didn't know you had," he said. "I'm trying to get my life in order and my interest is in finding out what these pieces were."

The 27-year-old man, who works in San Francisco, also said: "These things are dictating most of my behavior to this point."


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