6 More Files Shed Light on Catholic Church Abuse Scandal

By Barbara Jones
Los Angeles Daily News
September 9, 2013

This undated photo provided by the State of California shows a man identified as Carlos R. Rodriguez on the “Megan’s Law” online sex offender registry maintained by the state of California. Rodriguez, 57, was a priest with the Vincentian order who was sentenced to prison in 2004 for molesting two brothers while working within the boundaries of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles

[the documents]

One priest admitted to fathering a daughter, while another was hustled off to a treatment center after confessing to having sex with a teenage boy.

Yet another reportedly failed a lie-detector test when he was asked about sexual misdeeds with male students.

Those details are among many contained in a new set of confidential personnel files of six more priests who were accused of molesting children while working for their Roman Catholic religion orders — the Vincentians, the Norbertinese and the Augustinians — while assigned to parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The files are the second set to be released this summer and at least a half-dozen more are expected in the coming weeks as religious orders comply with a 2007 settlement with hundreds of clergy abuse victims.

Some of the details were released earlier this year when the archdiocese released thousands of pages on its own priests who were accused of sexual abuse, but the full picture of the problem has remained elusive without records from the religious orders.

It was previously known, for instance, that church officials sent Father Carlos Rodriguez for treatment in 1987 after he molested one of two teenage boys he took on a trip to the Grand Canyon.

But the 330-page file released Monday by the Vincentians makes it clear that the order and the archdiocese worked together to intercede, spiriting him off to a residential treatment center in Maryland. Both knew of Rodriguez’s confession, but no one spoke with police until the boy’s family filed a police report a month later, according to the file.

Without access to Rodriguez, the police case dried up and the priest was back at work within seven months, where he molested two brothers. Rodriguez, who was defrocked in 1998, was convicted of that abuse 17 years later, in 2004, and sentenced to prison. He was released in 2008.

Now 57, he lives as a registered sex offender in Huntington Park. He has been accused of abuse in at least five civil lawsuits.

“It still weighs heavy on me,” Rodriguez, who wore a cross around his neck, told the Associated Press on Monday when reached at his apartment. “It’s nothing proud to talk about. I still feel remorse and it still hurts.”

The newly released documents include a 34-page report on John Kohnke, who died in 1987. A member of the Norbertinese, Kohnke was the chaplain at St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank from 1969-71, and at the now-defunct St. Luke Hospital in Pasadena from 1971-74. He was then transferred back to assignments in his native Wisconsin.

The documents include a memo written in 2003, the year Kohnke was named in a lawsuit against the archdiocese accusing him of molestation. The church was seeking information about Kohnke’s service, the memo said, but “Our records do not show any indication of a problem of this nature in California.”

Documents previously released by the Los Angeles Archdiocese include memos about Kohnke’s arrests for lewd conduct in the bathroom of a North Hollywood park in 1970, and a police report filed in 1974 after Kohnke and a 16-year-old boy were found engaging in oral sex alongside a rural road in Laguna Hills. No criminal charges were filed against him.

Father Gabriel Salinas was born in 1892 in Spain, and became a priest in 1909. During most of his 55 years in the priesthood, he was American superior of the Augustinian Recollect Fathers.

In 1925, while assigned to a church in Omaha, Neb., he was driving a car that struck and killed an 11-year-old boy, according to newspaper stories included in his file. He was cleared of any wrongdoing and even officiated at the funeral Mass of his young victim.

In 1957, he was transferred from Omaha to be pastor of Cristo Rey Catholic Church in Atwater, where he was credited with building an auditorium-youth center and renovating the church and rectory. It was also at Cristo Rey where he was accused of molestation from 1958-60, according to a report by the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

The personnel file released Monday indicates he was removed from Cristo Rey in 1960, and assigned for three years to a provincial office.

Salinas died Nov. 18, 1972, nearly two weeks after he was hit by a car while crossing a Los Angeles street.

Jose Mendez, another member of the Augustinian Recollects, was accused of sex abuse from 1985-87, according to the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

The files released Monday include a 1996 report in which a church official said that Mendez — described as a “very personable young man who seemed to be unaware of his intellectual deficiencies” — had admitted fathering a child with a young woman he’d introduced to others as his “cousin.”

The report also said Mendez had been threatened with a paternity suit in 1982 and that there were “serious” allegations against Mendez involving young women while he was at San Miguel Parish in Los Angeles, as well as Cristo Rey in Atwater.

The report recommends that Mendez be dismissed from the order, saying “he probably should never have been professed a religious or ordained a priest.”

The documents released Monday include a 121-page file of former priest John Ruhl, who the archdiocese said was accused of molesting three minors from 1970-82.

Most of the file is correspondence related to Ruhl’s education and assignments, including his desire to transfer from Los Angeles to the Orange Diocese.

Buried near the end of the file, however, is a complaint filed in 2002 by a former student at Queen of Angels Seminary High, which is now Alemany High. He said that in 1970-71, he was molested several times by Ruhl in the Westside dormitory. He also said was reportedly “surprised” that no other former Queen of Angels students had come forward to complain about Ruhl.

Another confidential memo dated 1993 was written after a young man contacted church officials and said he’d been molested by Ruhl in the shower during a “vocation week” at St. Vincent’s Seminary in Montebello in 1976. A follow-up note said Ruhl had been given a lie-detector test after a previously accusation and “there was reason to suspect that there had possibly been other inappropriate behaviors.”

In his first assignment after his ordination at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, Father John Farris became a teacher at Queen of Angels Seminary (now Alemany High), where church officials said he was accused of molesting one youth from 1951-54. He served at a series of parishes in Missouri beginning in 1957.

However, his 129-page file released by the Vincentians indicates that Farris was a raging alcoholic throughout his career and was hospitalized at least twice for treatment .

“Jack Farris has been drunk as a hoot owl all day,” says one undated, handwritten letter.

“Today, Jack is in good shape but the good periods between bouts have grown shorter and shorter,” said a report written in 1969. “He’s had to cancel out mass assignments, confessions, etc., and quite frequently is not able to turn out any work.”

Farris died in 2003.


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