Victims of 2 Former Corpus Christi Priests to Be Compensated

By Max Taves
Palisadian-Post [Pacific Palisades CA]
December 6, 2006

When the Los Angeles Archdiocese pays $60 million to settle sexual abuse claims, millions will go to the alleged and confirmed victims of two former Corpus Christi priests.

The victims of Fathers George Neville Rucker, 86, and the alleged victim of Richard Martini, 51, were among 45 accusers who said they were sexually abused by L.A. priests. No known victims were members or students of Corpus Christi.

Thirty-eight females have accused Rucker, the former Corpus Christi pastor, of molesting them as children from 1947 to 1980, making him the most cited priest since the L.A. Archdiocese began recording abuse claims in 1930.

One man said that Father Martini showed 'inappropriate conduct' with him when he was a student at Our Lady Queen of Angels Seminary in the early 1990s. Although the archdiocese settled with the accuser, it disputes the man's account. Martini is an active priest, working at Transfiguration Catholic Church in Los Angeles.

Rucker was charged in 2002 with 29 counts of molesting seven girls during the 1970s and arrested while aboard a cruise ship in Alaska. But in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law that extended the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children. That decision freed Rucker from all criminal charges, but it did not stop dozens of lawsuits against him and the archdiocese. Most of those cases have yet to be settled.

According to publicly available archdiocese reports, investigations beginning in the 1960s confirmed abuse allegations against Rucker, but the Church continued a policy of reassigning him to parishes with elementary schools. And abuse followed.

After confirming Rucker's abuse for the first time in the early 1960s, then-Bishop Timothy Manning persuaded the mother of a molested girl not to press charges against the priest with the pledge that the Church would handle the situation, according to police reports.

But instead of reassigning Rucker away from contact with children, Manning assigned Rucker to St. Anthony's, a church with an elementary school in El Segundo. He spent six years there beginning in 1961, and two women later accused him of molesting them when they were nine years old.

One of the women brought criminal charges against Rucker in 1994, but an L.A. Superior Court judge dismissed the case, citing the statute of limitations. Rucker settled a civil lawsuit with one of the women by paying $20,000 without acknowledging wrongdoing. His lawyer argued that the woman believed false memories created by a therapist.

In its 'Report to People of God' published in 2004, the archdiocese described the decision to reassign Rucker to positions where he was in contact with children: 'Although Bishop (later Cardinal) Manning is deceased and cannot be asked his motives, the transfer was consistent with the normal response used at the time in which these cases were seen as sins requiring spiritual solutions. The priest in question had discussed and reflected upon it with his Bishop. Subsequently, Father Rucker served in a number of different parishes until his retirement in 1987.'

The archdiocese said that it had no further allegations against Rucker until after his retirement in 1987. But archdiocese reports show numerous complaints of inappropriate physical contact with girls while he was St. Anthony's between 1965 and 1967.

After his tenure at St. Anthony's, Rucker was transferred to St. Agatha's, a parish and elementary school in Los Angeles. Jackie Dennis has filed a suit against Rucker and the archdiocese, claiming that she was the victim of almost daily molestation by Rucker when he became pastor at St. Agatha, where she went to school.

Rucker's record of abuse began soon after his ordination in 1946 with his assignment to St. Alphonsus in East Los Angeles. Profiled in a front-page Los Angeles Times article ('She Can't Forgive Mahony's Inaction') last Saturday, Mary Dispenza Esfahan described her repeated molestation by Rucker beginning when she was 7 years old in the Catholic school's auditorium. Decades after her abuse, she confronted him and asked why he did it. 'He said that it was because of his hormones,' she recalled.

Rucker was pastor at Corpus Christi from 1979 until his retirement in 1987. He continued to live there until he was forcibly removed in April 2002 and placed in an assisted-living center for priests in West L.A., following a 'zero-tolerance' policy toward confirmed sexual predators initiated by Cardinal Roger Mahony.

Mahony has been the subject of much criticism for his handling of priests with confirmed records of sexual abuse. Although he became bishop after Rucker had already been assigned to Corpus Christi, he did not remove him from the parish until 2002, long after the archdiocese received multiple abuse allegations.

Another former Corpus Christi priest, David Granadino, has been accused of molestation by several former male students in Norwalk and Azusa. Following the allegations, the archdiocese revoked his ability to perform the duties of priesthood in 2003. His accusers were not part of last week's settlement, which dealt with only a portion of the 570 existing sexual abuse claims.

Since 2002, the archdiocese has not allowed priests with confirmed sexual-abuse records to serve the duties of the priesthood or to be in the proximity of children.

Father Liam Kidney, pastor of Corpus Christi, said the church takes all allegations seriously. 'We turn any allegations immediately over to child protective services. And we let them investigate it. We also will inform the archdiocese.'

To report child abuse in Los Angeles County, call the toll-free Child Protection Hotline at (800) 540-4000. If calling from outside California, call (213) 639-4500.


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