Following a recent report by a Pennsylvania grand jury that detailed a widespread cover-up of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, which involved more than 1,000 children and more than 300 priests, a civil suit was filed Oct. 2 in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Camarillo resident Thomas Emens.
Emens said he was abused by a Southern California priest, who was also a family friend, decades ago when he was 10 years old.
Emens is suing California bishops for allegedly covering up clerical child sexual abuse and is calling on California dioceses, including the Los Angeles Archdiocese, not only to release the names of all clergy members who have been accused of sexual misconduct, but also the documented histories that Emens’ attorneys say have been under lock and key.
“This lawsuit is the only opportunity I have to find justice, not just for myself, but to bring all the victims that are in the shadows, out and to help them move forward,” Emens said during a videotaped press conference.
>Note: Substantially similar news reports appeared elsewhere two weeks ago, but SCVTV-SCVNews held it pending a statement from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, which came Tuesday.
Emens’ attorneys released a 120-plus page report, which contained more than 300 names of clerics from the L.A Archdiocese who have been accused of sexual abuse.
The attorneys’ report named a handful of former Santa Clarita Valley priests – four of whom served at one time during their careers at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Newhall and one at St. Andrew’s Priory in nearby Valyermo.
None of the alleged abuses occurred while the clerics were assigned to OLPH. However, a priest from St. Andrews was accused of sexual misconduct during his tenure at the Valyermo parish.
The clerics with “local” ties are the following:
Father George Michael Miller, assigned to OLPH from 1964-1967. Miller was accused of multiple alleged sexual abuse involving boys in the 1970s and 1980s as a cleric in a Pacoima parish. According to the report, Cardinal Timothy Manning decided to keep Miller in the ministry after Miller’s “firm denial.” The L.A. Archdiocese received another complaint against Miller in 1996 of alleged sexual abuse. Cardinal Roger Mahoney responded to the complaint by placing Miller on sick leave, eventually placing him on inactive leave in 1997. Miller was later arrested in 2002 and charged with 24 counts of sex crimes against minors involving thee boys. Due to the statute of limitations, those charges were dropped. Miller eventually pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a 9-year-old boy from approximately 1988 to 1991. According to the report, Miller also admitted to sexually abusing four other boys. He was sentenced to three years in prison and registered as a sex offender. He is believed to have died in 2018.
Father John Ruhl, C.M., assigned to OLPH in 1971. Ruhl has been accused of child sexual abuse by at least three people. One alleged abuse occurred approximately between 1972-1973 and the other alleged abuse from 1981-1983. According to the report, Ruhl was removed from the diocese in 2002 and his whereabouts and his access to children are unknown.
Father Roderic M. Guerrini, assigned to OLPH from 1981-1989. He was accused of inappropriately touching and kissing a 15-year-old girl in 1977 and 1978 while he was at Santa Clara Parish in Oxnard. Sometime later, the girl’s two sisters accused Guerrini of similar alleged inappropriate behavior. In 2003, he was named in a civil lawsuit and the suit was settled in 2007. Guerrini reportedly retired in 2002 and is believed to be at Nazareth House in Los Angeles.
Father Richard M. Martini, assigned to OLPH from 2011-2014. He was alleged to have sexually abused a boy from approximately 1990-1991. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles said the claims were investigated, but it could not substantiate the allegations. The survivor brought the suit against the L.A. Archdiocese in 2003 and a settlement was reached. According to the report, Martini was assigned to St. Joseph in Carpinteria, where he has remained since 2015.
Father Wilfred Weitz, O.S.B., served at St. Andrew’s Priory in Valyermo from 1958-1991. Weitz was named in at least one civil suit. He has been accused of child sexual abuse by at least one victim that occurred from 1959-1961. It has also been reported that Weitz may be abused children at Camp Juniperro Serra in Los Angeles and at the Claretian Seminary in Calabasas. Weitz died in 1991. He is included in the L.A. Archdiocese list of priests accused of sexual misconduct involving minors.
>To view the full report, click [here].
The L.A. Archdiocese responded to the complaint by stating the Archdiocese was not served with the lawsuit, and it noted the complaint and report presented at the press conference were based on information already disclosed in 2013 as part of the 2007 global settlement, as well as the 2004 Report to the People of God.
Mahoney described the 2004 report as representing “our best understanding of the history of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese and our efforts to eliminate this scourge. It includes the best information we can glean at this time about the number of priests and religious who have sexually abused minors and the number of victims of such abuse.”
The California Catholic Conference, which is the staff office of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops, said in a statement safety measures, including background checks, fingerprinting, a zero-tolerance standard and training were implemented years ago and these Safe Environment programs aid students and staff in identifying and preventing abuse.
“These measures have been effective,” the statement said. “Allegations of abuse have been rare since 2003, responded to and uniformly reported, but we know we can never be complacent. The twelve dioceses of California will never waver in their commitment to protect young people.”
Emens, whose decision to come forward came after he found another victim of the same priest, said he is not seeking monetary damages from the lawsuit.
“I just want the truth,” Emens said. “The truth is far more valuable than any money could ever be.”