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Sex Abuse Victims Want Public to Read SD Diocese Files

Audio

Aired 10/26/10

Sex abuse victims are urging the public to carefully read newly released records detailing molestation cases dating back decades in local Catholic churches. The victims say the records contain information that could help parents protect their kids.

Sex abuse victims are urging the public to carefully read newly released records detailing molestation cases dating back decades in local Catholic churches. The victims say the records contain information that could help parents protect their kids.

Jim Witham, 52, breaks down during a news conference while recalling sexual abuse he allegedly suffered at the hands of former San Diego priest Gustavo Benson, October 25, 2010 in San Diego.
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Above: Jim Witham, 52, breaks down during a news conference while recalling sexual abuse he allegedly suffered at the hands of former San Diego priest Gustavo Benson, October 25, 2010 in San Diego.

The records are from the personnel files of 48 priests who once served in the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego. These priests were either convicted of sexual abuse or were credibly accused.

David Clohessy, a member of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, says he believes some of the priests still live in the region.

“Imagine a single mom, four kids in an apartment complex and the man across the hall says I’m a retired priest," Clohessy said. "Our hope is that she will look at these documents and say no, no he’s not a retired priest, he’s s suspended priest, he’s a defrocked priest. He’s a convicted priest.”

Abuse victim Jim Witham says he wants people to know the toll the molestations have taken on lives.

“I have been battling this for a long time,” Witham said tearfully. “I’ve been off and on the streets for over 20 years. I was hooked on meth, alcohol. My parents asked me for a long time, `What’s going on with you Jim?’” I hid it from my parents. I hid it from the world.”

Victims want the church to release two thousand remaining pages of records but the diocese says it has complied with a 2007 legal settlement.

Comments

Avatar for user 'cjgoldsmith'

cjgoldsmith | October 26, 2010 at 2:25 p.m. ― 3 years, 12 months ago

One problem...the priests are dead. I'm reminded of Copernicus' dying wish to have his papers on the Earth revolving around the Sun published only after he died because he knew he'd be labeled a heretic. So one is left wondering about this latest revolution within the Catholic Church (btw, I'm Catholic, but lapsed), what are they so afraid of that they have to use 400 year old political tactics? Who does this anymore? Maybe they're afraid that Martin Luther was right after all and that we really don't need priests to intermediate our relationship to God? Just saying.

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Avatar for user 'mobareno1'

mobareno1 | October 26, 2010 at 4:12 p.m. ― 3 years, 12 months ago

I Have reviewed the documents and i find them appalling,im overcomed by the institutional politics that seemed to influence how priest were or were not disciplined.Many of the principal and long time offenders all seemed to make significant personal contributions to the bishops various funds.On a personal level ,i was deeply saddened by the references to father sheridan at st judes,in logan heights.His acts were shameful and the damage he did is devastating to the young lives he ruined.More profoundly saddening,is that the community which st judes serves,the shelltown neighborhood of logan heights,whose faithful help build the church and school ,blue collar families,mexicans,italians,philipinos,blacks and whites could be held in such low regard by father sheridan.In a 1969,letter to bishop buddy,father sheridan states as a reason for transfer to another parish,that he can no longer stand his environment and feels that he rejects,the very parishoners who helped him build st judes.The people at the time,because i lived it,always held father sheridan in high regard and looked to him for spiritual guidedance.Somehow in pastoral letter or something, people need hear as these documents roll out,an affirmation that the parishes affected are no less than those that escaped,this infamy.It is inescapable,the number of spanish speaking parishes that were affected,arent we all gods children?.

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Avatar for user 'kapellmeister'

kapellmeister | October 26, 2010 at 9:59 p.m. ― 3 years, 12 months ago

Who benefits from reading all of these documents? The Church has made sweeping changes since the alleged abuses took place, especially during the last decade. Yet, I wonder who would be interested in reading about the policies and procedures that have been in effect for several years? As an employee of the Diocese of San Diego, and of two other California dioceses over the past decade, I can only speak from my own experience. Personally, I have observed no evidence of abuse; although that is not to deny or fail to lament the fact that abuses occurred in the past. Some of the measures that are taken in today's Church include the screening of employees, enforcement of the "safe environment" codes, requirements for reporting abuse, and an awareness of the mission of the Church. One might search the news for these stories, but probably will not find much.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | October 27, 2010 at 8:23 a.m. ― 3 years, 12 months ago

Forty-eight priests in a period of how many years? Twenty? Thirty? Sounds like a tiny percentage--at least for the size of the San Diego Diocese. That doesn't mean to say that the cases were mishandled and/or covered-up. But I ask you, Mr. Clohessy, how many grade school teachers in that same period of time? Are you as equally concerned about them or this is simply a Big Chip? PS: never could fathom the meaning of the vague term "lapsed." You either are or you are not.

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