Local Victims Impacted by Priest Sex Scandal

By Jose Gaspar
Bakersfield Now
February 1, 2013

[with video]

AKERSFIELD, Calif.---George Santillan was just 10 years old at the time when he says, a priest at St. John's Catholic Church in Wasco began to molest him and his younger brother, Howard.

"He would take me in the back and do all kinds of things," said George Santillan. "I was really confused, I didn't know what I should do," said the now retired Santillan.

In a lawsuit filed by the Santillan brothers against the Diocese of Fresno, the brothers claim the alleged abuse was at the hands of Father Anthony Hardegen and lasted between 1959 and 1973.

A judge in Los Angeles recently ordered the Los Angeles Archdiocese to release thousands of pages of files related to sex abuse cases in which children were allegedly molested by numerous priests. The files are a disturbing read and reveal that church leaders, including Cardinal Roger Mahoney never reported suspected cases to police.

And church leaders tried to cover up cases of pedophile priests.

In 2009, Mahoney was called to testify in the civil case filed by the Santillan brothers against the Diocese of Fresno. Mahoney at one time had served as Bishop for the Diocese of Fresno.

Under oath, Mahoney testified he was never aware of any sexual misconduct by Father Hardegen upon the Santillan brothers. George Santillan finds that hard to believe.

"Big companies, big businesses, so forth, they lie. And people believe them and they get away with things," said the now retired Santillan.

The release of the files in Los Angeles and the details contained in them was met with somber reaction by local parishioners.

"It does make you question (your faith)" said parishioner Sally Escudero.


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