Man Alleges Priest Raped Him|
By Jannise Johnson
March 27, 2006
POMONA - When a Pomona boy needed help 26 years ago dealing with emotional problems brought on by a physically abusive father, he did what many would do: seek the help of a priest.
That decision, he said, drastically altered his life for the worse.
Mark Gallegos, 34, passed out fliers and spoke to members of the media as well as parishioners Sunday morning at Sacred Heart Church, 1215 S. Hamilton Blvd. Gallegos said he hoped those attending Mass would get his message: The church does little to nothing to help survivors of priest abuse.
"I think these priests think they are above the law," Gallegos said.
Gallegos alleges he was raped when he was 8-years-old by the Rev. Manuel Sanchez.
Sanchez still works at the church and interacts with children, Gallegos said.
The rape, he said, occurred sometime after he went to Sanchez for help about alleged physical abuse by his father.
"He raped me in my gown," he said of the attack. "I ran out bleeding and ran to a (nearby) park crying."
Gallegos said he then confided in a nun, but she allegedly beat him with a paddle and called him a liar.
Feeling he had nowhere left to go, Gallegos said his life began to slide away from him little by little.
He ran away from home several times, went to juvenile hall before he was 13 and eventually joined one of Pomona's most notorious street gangs.
Gallegos was joined Sunday morning by a handful of friends and family members, including his wife, Patricia, and two of their three children.
Mary Grant, regional director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), also attended to show support for Gallegos.
Carolina Guevara, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said an independent panel reviewed allegations two years ago made by Gallegos against Sanchez.
After finding no credible evidence to support the claims, Sanchez was allowed to return to work at Sacred Heart Church, Guevara said.
"We do very thorough investigations because we are concerned about the safety of our children," Guevara said.
Gallegos said he is more at peace with the alleged abuse, after he confronted Sanchez March 19 in the sacristy of the church. Sanchez reacted emotionally to the accusation, Gallegos said.
"He started crying," Gallegos said. "He put his head down and walked away. He set me free by not denying it."
However, Sanchez read a brief statement declaring his innocence during a Sunday service.
In the statement he denounced the accusations as "100 percent untrue."
"I repeat to you, with God as my witness, that I am completely innocent of this claim of totally immoral and repugnant behavior," the statement said.
Gallegos filed a civil lawsuit in 2003 that alleges church officials conspired to cover-up abuse by Sanchez, according to a statement by SNAP. The lawsuit is pending.
Jannise Johnson can be reached by e-mail at jannise.johnsonor by phone at (909) 483-9318.
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