|Diocese Accused of Mishandling Sex Abuse Case
May 26, 2009
SALINAS, Calif. -- One of nearly a dozen lawsuits filed against the Monterey Catholic Diocese for its handling -- or lack of handling -- allegations of child abuse among members of the clergy will have its hearing on Friday.
This particular case pits a Monterey man who claims he was sexually molested while an altar boy during the early 1990s at the St. Mary of the Nativity Church in Salinas.
The man, who did not want to be identified by name for this story, said the diocese made mistakes when handling alleged child abuse cases, including his.
"A diocese official told my parents, 'He was not the first kid this happened to and it's not the last. He'll be fine and he'll forget about it,'" John Doe said.
According to court records, John Doe's mother was laughed at when she sought $10,000 from the diocese to get counseling for her son.
"Just seeing my mother's heart break to pieces when she tells me how the priest laughed at her. She was crying. She couldn't stop and they were telling her to calm down, that nothing was going to happen," John Doe said.
The Monterey Catholic Diocese came into the news recently when Rev. Antonio Cortes was arrested last month after a 16-year-old walked into the Salinas police station and accused the priest of providing him with alcohol and then molesting him, starting when he was a 14-year-old.
Cortes, who was a priest at St. Mary of the Nativity Catholic Church, has been charged with unlawful sexual behavior, sodomy and providing alcohol to a minor.
The priests in the John Doe case are Fathers Juan Guillen and John Velez.
Guillen would later be convicted of molesting boys in Arizona and is currently serving his prison sentence there.
Velez tried to commit suicide after the allegations surfaced and was never charged.
According to court documents, the diocese released Velez to a religious order in Mexico City.
John Manly, attorney for John Doe, said the priest's whereabouts are unknown.
"The diocese allowed Father Velez to escape to Mexico, and they never called the police, never called law enforcement but just handled it internally," Manly said. "In 1992, they let him escape to Mexico. It's wrong."
Monterey diocese spokesman Warren Hoy said he wouldn't talk about the specific lawsuit John Doe has filed against the church, but did tell Action News 8 that major changes have been made on how to address and prevent child molestation at the church.
"We have learned from our mistakes. We have established zero tolerance," Hoy said.
New guidelines and procedures were adopted seven years ago.
Hoy said the church now talks with the alleged victim first and the victim's family. Then a pastoral care team tends to their needs and the bishop of the diocese will personally contact the family and provide pastoral care for them as well.
"For anyone who wants to criticize the church, we absolutely agree we made mistakes but we've addressed those mistakes," Hoy said. "We're trying to move forward and we're trying to help everybody who was involved in any kind of situation in the past to move forward as well."
Hoy said the guidelines were put into use last month when Cortes was arrested.
In that case, the diocese contacted police and reached out to parishioners advising them of Cortes' arrest and requesting them to call police with any other cases of alleged sexual misconduct involving Cortes, who has now been stripped of his priestly duties by the diocese pending the outcome of the case.
In the civic case that involves John Doe, money is being asked for. Manly would not tell Action News is seeking, and that they will let a jury decide what is fair.
According to Hoy, no church property has been sold to settle any allegations of child molestation but that insurance and general funds have been used to pay off settlements.
If a settlement can't be reached in the John Doe case, it will go to trial on June 15.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.