A Look at the Orange Diocese's Previous Head Aztlanistas

By Gustavo Arellano
Orange County Weekly
April 1, 2009

[See also other articles by Gustavo Arellano.]

Why is this man smiling?

I wish I could say it is an April Fools' joke that the Orange County Hispanic Bar Association is going through with its reception for newly ordained Catholic Diocese of Orange Bishop Cirilo Flores despite him never quite getting around to denouncing or disciplining pedo-priests while serving on the diocese's clergy personnel board. At least the president-elect of the OC HBA, Carlos Colorado, has the guts to denounce the cover-up of the rapes of innocents, something that none of the other HBA members who flooded my email and Facebook accounts with angry comments did (sorry, folks, but merely expressing that "the church has gone through a very difficult time in recent years" not only says nothing but takes the side of the church and expresses no sympathy toward the victims)!

But, still: Colorado's rationale for hosting such a reception disturbs me. Using the example of El Salvador's martyred Bishop Oscar Romero (whom I'll remind Colorado was ostracized by Pope John Paul II and the official Roman Catholic hierarchy while he was alive), Colorado wrote that "we could not be blind to the prospect of joining hands with the Church in the struggle for social justice" in a year where immigration reform will eventually be on the table. In other words, since Flores and the Catholic Church is an Aztlanista, who cares about him looking the other way while priests ravaged children*? That's why Los Angeles Archdiocese Cardinal Roger Mahony continues to garner so much Latino support despite his status as a walking snake.

I can't say I'm surprised, alas, both at the reaction of the OC HBA or that the Orange diocese's head Hispanic is so intimately connected to the pedo-priest scandal. A blast through the past after the jump!

The first person appointed to head the Diocese of Orange's Hispanic Commission was Eleuterio Ramos. He was instrumental in getting the newly formed Orange diocese to adopt the Virgin of Guadalupe as its patron saint, and getting its annual veneration switched from Dana Point (what genius thought that was a good location?) to SanTana. Personnel records show that Ramos was defending illegal immigrants in front of the Board of Supervisors as early as the late 1970s and encountered fierce criticism when he allowed Mexican flags inside the heavily-Mexican St. Anthony Claret during the mid-1980s. Church records also show Ramos was the most prolofic pedophile in Orange County history, molesting at least 25 children in his career. The church eventually stripped him of the Hispanic Commission post, giving it to...

Tomas Clavel. He was formerly the Archbishop of Panama but landed in Orange to replace Ramos. He has an Orange County Second Harvest food bank award named after him to commemorate His Excellency's work with the poor. But when it came time to defend the most defenseless Catholics, guess what happened? Roll the tape, Los Angeles Times!

In February 1989, a mother of eight asked Driscoll to investigate [Franklin] Buckman's alleged molestation of her son, while he was still an Orange County priest.

With the investigation dragging on 15 months later, the mother appealed to Pope John Paul II.

In a letter composed in Spanish, the mother complained that Tomas Clavel, the retired archbishop of Panama, had "intimidated" her from making a police report. Clavel was then working in the Orange Diocese, but has since died.

"Not to say anything publicly. Everything was hushed up," the mother wrote. "I am asking you, I am begging you to do justice," she told the pope. "Please answer me so I will know that there is someone in the world who cares for the humble people."

Pope John Paul II did nothing, and did the same with another parishioner letter.

Replacing Clavel after his death was Jaime Soto, whom nearly all O.C. Latinos love for his outspoken defense of immigrants. They conveniently forget Soto writing a letter in defense of a known pederast and doing the diocese's bidding by retrieving Ramos after the church dumped him at a children's parish in Tijuana (hey Jaime: did it ever cross your mind to turn Ramos over to the feds?). Soto gave the invocation at the OC HBA two years ago when I served as emcee, and one of the few professional regrets I have was not blasting him in public when I had a chance. But, I had too much respect for the HBA. Oh, and Soto--now bishop of Sacramento--is a newly minted homo-hater.

The person who replaced Soto to head the Orange diocese Hispanic Commission is Leticia Saldivar. The nun's only known tie to the sex-abuse scandal is that her brother, Cesar, was caught with kiddie porn on his computer.

And now, Flores.

Despite this sordid past, I guarantee you most Latinos will defend or excuse these men (I'll exclude Saldivar from this conclusion) because of the work they did for Latinos. That's ethnic chauvinism at its worst, and that's a damn shame. The Orange County Hispanic Bar Association will no doubt continue its noble mission of helping the downtrodden, but to overlook the actions of people who did nothing to help the most destitute at their time of need because of their power to influence bigger debates is simply disappointing. Open your eyes, eses.

Next Wednesday: a blast from Flores' legal past!



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