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Why Bishop Curry Needs to Resign


Thursday, January 31, 2013
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ENOUGH! I’ve never met Santa Barbara’s Bishop Thomas J. Curry, and Curry, it seems, is intent on keeping it that way. I can see why. Curry ​— ​said to be a thoughtful, scholarly guy ​— ​finds himself thrust agonizingly into the festering sex-abuse cover-up scandal that’s rocked the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for more than 10 years. Before his appointment to Santa Barbara, Curry served as right-hand man to Archbishop ​— ​and then cardinal ​— ​Roger Mahony of L.A. In that capacity, it was Curry’s function to take care of pedophile priests. This he did, according to internal church documents just made public, by taking care that such priests escaped the attention of law enforcement authorities. These documents—memos written by Curry himself—would appear to constitute grounds for criminal prosecution had the statute of limitations not expired. Curry, it may be said, was trying to obtain treatment for problem priests. What he secured instead was protection. After the Los Angeles Times broke the story last week, Curry has busied himself attending various events celebrating National Catholic Schools Week, which commenced January 27. The theme this year is “high standards” ​— ​as in academic and moral. Catholic schools would be better served if Curry stayed away. Catholic schools actually get the job done. Students are held accountable; they’re not allowed to hide. Those that try are systemically exposed and humiliated. Methodologically, it’s rough but extremely effective.

Angry Poodle

Based on the public “apology” Curry issued, he clearly needs a remedial crash course in both accountability and public humiliation. In written remarks, Curry acknowledged and apologized for decisions he’d made regarding “the treatment and disposition” of predator priests “that in retrospect appear inadequate or mistaken.” Appeared? In memos written to Mahony in 1986 and 1987, Curry worries again and again that if pedophile priests are open and revealing with their therapists, the therapists would feel legally obligated ​— ​as in fact they were ​— ​to report such conduct to law enforcement authorities. In one instance, he expressed surprise that a certain therapist hadn’t already done so, and advised Mahony that another therapist should be sought. If only the church could find someone who was both a therapist and an attorney, he opined, such fears could be allayed. In another memo, Curry counsels against allowing a prolific predator ​— ​who threatened to have a boy he assaulted deported ​— ​back in town after treatment in New Mexico. Given that there were 20 victims around and that the perp was looking at “first-degree felony” charges, Curry wrote, he should stay away.

Activists in Santa Barbara’s survivor circuit find the shrewd and cunning voice Curry displays in these memos violently at odds with the ignorance and naïveté he’s professed when discussing sexual abuse here in town. Ray Higgins, whose son was abused at St. Anthony’s, remembers a public meeting in 1992 at which Curry “violently denied anything like this ever happened on his watch.” Another participant in that meeting told me the same thing. Ten years later, a man who’d been abused as a young boy by Father Matthew Kelly of Our Lady of Guadalupe said he notified Bishop Curry of his abuse only to be told the same thing. “I can’t believe anything like this could happen in our Catholic Church,” he claims Curry told him. He would eventually sue the archdiocese and “win” a substantial settlement.

Likewise, when Curry moved to Santa Barbara in 1992, there’s no indication he did anything to prevent the archdiocese from appointing Father James Ford ​— ​whose personnel files contained four allegations of sexual misconduct ​— ​as pastor of the San Roque parish, where he served until 2005. The first allegation was filed in 1983, the second in 1987, and two in 1993. In 1983, Ford was accused by a seminarian about to be expelled for being his companion in “moral difficulty.” In 1987, Curry heard from a monsignor who’d heard from a seminarian that Ford had sexual relations with another seminarian then dying of AIDS and that Ford “tended to be involved with high school boys.” In January 1993, church authorities heard from a man who claimed to have had an 11-month sexual relationship with Ford. He claimed they’d had sex “in the parish” and that they took AIDS tests together prior to “consummation,” and that they frequented “a gay cruising spot” in Ventura, where Ford owned a condo. Three months later, a Monsignor Dyer would notify a church-paid therapist that people in Oxnard and Sepulveda were making “comments about his [Ford’s] lifestyle for over a period of ten years.” Ford emphatically denied all such allegations, and at least one church inquiry failed to substantiate allegations of child abuse. To date, no one from San Roque has come forward to report abuse at Ford’s hands. But in 2003, a Dallas-based fresco artist named Matt Stevens sued Ford and the church, claiming he’d been abused repeatedly by Ford from 1968-1971 while he was an altar boy at the Holy Family parish in Orange County. Stevens said Ford gave him a book about how adolescents could maintain their purity, and said Ford heard him confess and offered absolution to sins Stevens committed while with Ford. Without admitting the validity of these claims, the church settled with Stevens in 2007 for $1.1 million. Since then, Stevens said he’s discovered 19 individuals from Santa Barbara who told him they’d been molested by Ford. To the extent any have made such allegations to church officials is unknown. None have gone public; based on the statue of limitations, no lawsuits could be filed.

Stevens claimed he reported Ford to a priest then assigned to Holy Family, G. Patrick Ziemann. Ziemann would later become Bishop of Santa Barbara and Santa Rosa. He was forced to resign in 1999 when his own history of sexual abuse was revealed. Stevens claims Ziemann responded to his allegations against Ford by molesting him, as well. Shortly after this report, Ford was reassigned. He would eventually make his way to San Rafael’s in Goleta, where he would work alongside the popular and charismatic Fr. Donald Roener. In 1981, Roener would be convicted of sexually abusing minors, making him one of the very first to achieve that dubious distinction. When Ford retired from San Roque in 2005, he moved to Palm Springs, where he sought to volunteer at a high school. Fortunately, a survivors’ advocacy group brought Ford’s reputation to light. He died in 2009.

Bishop Curry has no doubt done many good things in his life. But right now, he needs to do one more. Resign immediately. No, it won’t spare him the agonizing humiliation yet to come as new documents are released. It’s just the right thing to do.

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Nick: You might be interested to know that there is a long-time talk show in L.A. where the hosts have gone after Mahoney for many years, exposing his role in these matters. Here is the link: http://www.kfiam640.com/pages/johnand...

If you already haven't you might want to hook up with them for more information but it looks as though you have this issue pretty well covered on your own.

Catholic church and cops: Covering the backs of their rogue associates.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
January 31, 2013 at 3:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Bravo and thank you, Nick Welsh. After decades of frustration at last there is light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Considering the situation, resignation would be the best decision for Curry at this point. Clearly his sincerity and moral obligations have been compromised.

The time has come for those involved in this cover up to take responsibility for their actions. For attempting to diffuse the seriousness of these criminal acts against our children and for being the the hunter's - the predator's advocate, while knowingly sacrificing his helpless and vulnerable prey.

No mercy for the hunter.

samuel (anonymous profile)
January 31, 2013 at 9:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Great article.
Name correction: It's Roemer...
Donald Patrick Roemer, pedophile extraordinaire.

gmc926 (anonymous profile)
January 31, 2013 at 9:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

great article. I had my concerns about Fr. Roemer many many years ago when he taught my children. Back then no one wanted to hear my story. Thank you again.

fredmust (anonymous profile)
January 31, 2013 at 11:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

thank you very much for keeping this issue at the forefront, Nick. As I wrote on the earlier thread on this topic:
"Curry should be defrocked, and charged with some sort of crimes. I thought the "priests" were about protecting their flock...as Jesus said, suffer the young ones to come unto me. However, these criminals thought it more important to protect THEIR HIERARCHY and their precious "church" than to protect children in their flock from rapacious male priests. Jail time needed for these creeps." At the minimum, he needs to resign and accept public humiliation. Or, high tail it over to the Vatican where he can hide.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 31, 2013 at 11:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Curry has no defense. He chose protecting the Vatican's image over protecting children. He must go and hope his God shows him the same mercy he denied the victims of these molesters.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 31, 2013 at 1:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The media is now reporting that Curry has resigned. You're one powerful poodle, Nick Welsh.

joshn113 (anonymous profile)
January 31, 2013 at 9:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As so often happens, Nick Welsh called it!
Brilliant column, and obviously prescient.

whosecityisthis2012 (anonymous profile)
February 1, 2013 at 7:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I read this early this morning and began to cry.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-...

The wheels have begun to slowly turn.

Thank you for helping us by letting in the light of truth and hope, Mr. Welch.

samuel (anonymous profile)
February 1, 2013 at 8:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Put the nuns in charge of the Catholic church.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
February 2, 2013 at 1:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

On another sick note, our own Bishop Diego High School had Curry preside over Mass as his last act as Bishop. This in a gym full of k-12 students for Catholic Schools week. They did not tell the parents that they were featuring the protector of child sodomizers...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
February 2, 2013 at 1:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As an aside, billclausen, I would not trust John and Ken to tell me what color the sky is.

SezMe (anonymous profile)
February 3, 2013 at 2:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Then you should listen to John and Ken more SezMe because your nonobjective bias is showing; their style may not be for everyone but they blast hypocrisy both liberal and conservative in equal doses. They have been on Mahoney for at least 5 years, the precious LA Times, so enamored with Roger's love of illegal aliens, stepped very carefully around the facts in this case for way too long

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
February 3, 2013 at 6:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

LA Times devoted an article to Curry yesterday:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-...

Never listened to "John and Ken" as most AM Talk radio is bombastic drivel. For an attentive moderator, production staff that does their homework, and informed guests, you'd be hard pressed to do better than Warren Olney's "To the Point" and "Which Way LA".

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
February 3, 2013 at 10:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you, East Beach. Thank goodness the wheels are turning, light is coming in, and the world will know about this raging hypocrite hiding behind his robes and church.

Hopefully in time the legion of the innocent prey of these unspeakablely cruel men will find closure.

Yes, italiansburg, I see no wrong with John and Ken, they have been diligent in their pursuit of Mahoney and for this alone I would support them.

samuel (anonymous profile)
February 3, 2013 at 11:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

thanks for letting me know who "John and Ken" are EB, I thought it was KV and JohnLocke being blasted! Never listen to AM rant-drivel.
That's unbearably sick about FORMER bishop Curry speaking at our own local Bishop Diego High recently, where several of my former students now attend. Groan. What did Martin Luther say of the Pope? Something like, "the Pope speaks from the devil's anus" [sorry, cannot render that in German].

DrDan (anonymous profile)
February 3, 2013 at 11:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I thought that's who he meant at first too, briefly made my day!

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 3, 2013 at 11:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

For Dr Dan: Der Papst spricht aus des Teufels Anus.
As long as the Catholic Church insists on forbidding its priests from leading normal sexual lives, they will engage in abnormal ones.

blackpoodles (anonymous profile)
February 3, 2013 at 11:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

DrDan and blackpoodles, thank you!

Henry the Eighth was no fool. Nor did he suffer hypocrites gladly. He would no doubt have agreed with Martin Luther on that count and approved of the sack of Rome by an army of German Lutherans in 1527,

samuel (anonymous profile)
February 3, 2013 at 11:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

As I prepare to watch my beloved 49ers play in the Super Bowl, I wanted to thank the commenters on this thread for showing sanity, compassion and intelligence when the corporate heads of the Catholic Church, my faith by birthright, instead are evil, duplicitous, and sick. This insanity is so pervasive that some of our own schools cannot see that there is no place for adults who enable or bugger children....

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
February 3, 2013 at 1:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

More seriously... there is simply something wrong with hermetically "closed" organizations which emphasize secrecy...at least in modern societies. It's tempting to write "MALE-dominated organizations" which are so closed they disallow outside observation and some forms of reforms or self-checking. We have only to look at the BBC and the very long hidden sexual predation of their old children's hour favorite Jim Fixit (or, whatever he was called, I'm close).
I completely agree with italiansurg, samuel, and most of the above posters; when the "hierarchy" gets more concerned with protecting its own status and the fanatical loyalty of its own hierophants [junior "bishops" or any hierarchical title)] -- they've lost the original concept and inspiration. Several of the Axial Age thinkers comment about this reification of what was once a good movement or a positive wave...Socrates, Jesus, Buddha...were all concerned any movement after their deaths would eventually (inevitably??) get frozen and the leaders would begin to worship themselves or worship a frozen rule structure. Didn't Buddha reputedly say, "If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill the Buddha"? And didn't Dostoevsky write about the Church upside down in his famous Grand Inquisitor story? It's a very old issue, and it has not gone away.
Meantime, all doors unlocked, adults and others mingling in groups, outside assessors and frequent walkabouts in such institutions, rotation of leadership, constant checking of the books, wide open community necessary... this is a lot of work, and the Church has notably failed to police its own higher-ups. The Pope himself is out of touch; his own butler steals notes from his personal desk and publishes them.
I will go with EB's suggestion we turn all the Church's resources and power in USA over to those hard-working nuns.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
February 3, 2013 at 1:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It is a tragedy that ignorance will prevail in the the quest to suppress evil for the sake of saving face. Hopefully in time these badly advised individuals will learn false loyalty to a flawed organisation was simply a matter of fear of their own conscience, to which they turned a deaf ear.

samuel (anonymous profile)
February 3, 2013 at 1:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Are you quite sure about the nuns, Dr Dan?

samuel (anonymous profile)
February 3, 2013 at 2:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As conveniently glib it is to always say that the nuns would do a better job, in reality that too is untrue. The percentage of weird ass nuns that you would not want running anything is way too high. It's not a matter of gender but a matter of a creepy, closed system that uses ultimate power over the threat/promise of eternal salvation etc. to manipulate folks.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
February 4, 2013 at 7:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

All true. The whole idea of this system being run by either celibate gender is harrowing. .

samuel (anonymous profile)
February 4, 2013 at 2:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Leave it to The Who to address this issue so trenchantly in song:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0a0M...

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 4, 2013 at 3:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

OK, yes, whether run by either celibate gender it must be suspect in the early 21st century West, eh?
The open society has to have "open" organizations with transparency and a system of checks to see what's really going on at the institution. Who checks on the checker-types?

DrDan (anonymous profile)
February 4, 2013 at 4:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Definitely not the nuns!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/artic...

samuel (anonymous profile)
February 6, 2013 at 6:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I checked this lurid report in the Daily Mail (hardly a responsible UK paper!), samuel. I'll stand with my Feb. 3 longer comment above about "closed" institutions and their problems. Mixed-gender institutions, schools, religious schools, do feel better and less open to systematic abuse of the sort the Church has allowed FAR too long.
I do have a long-time friend who is in the Catholic Daughters of Charity: THEY work hard and are clean. I certainly cannot speak for all the nuns!

DrDan (anonymous profile)
February 6, 2013 at 9:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Of course. One cannot diffuse all the good nuns have done and are still doing. That would be insensitive and very wrong. My father, wounded and gassed in WWI, spent time in a Convent.Hospital in France. He spoke highly of their seemingly tireless work, dedication, gentleness and compassion.

Yes, I agree. A really awful publication. The Daily Mail which arrived on our doorstep along with The Times 50 years ago was a conservative and erudite paper. The Express, Lord Beaverbrook's contribution and possibly much too liberal for my parents, was not popular in our household at the time.

samuel (anonymous profile)
February 6, 2013 at 12:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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