Secrets and Lies
Sex abuse allegedly occurred under former Monterey vicar’s watch
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Diocese of Orange County Bishop Tod D. Brown has tried mightily to position himself as a leader in the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal. He’s settled multiple lawsuits, met with victims, and has urged his fellow bishops to open once-secret archives and own up to their roles in protecting pedophile priests. Too bad Brown can’t apply the same standards to his days in Monterey.
On Nov. 19, the bishop was deposed for a lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Monterey. In it, a man identified in court documents as John Doe claims priests John Velez and Juan Guillen molested him around 1990 when he served as an altar boy at Christ the King Church in Salinas.
Brown’s attorneys tried to prevent His Excellency from testifying in the case by arguing the bishop – who served in the Monterey diocese from 1963 until becoming the Bishop of Boise in 1989 – wasn’t around when Doe’s alleged abuse occurred. The strategy didn’t work: Doe’s Newport Beach-based attorney, Vince Finaldi, convinced a judge to allow the deposition since Brown held two of the Monterey diocese’s most-powerful positions during his stay – vicar of clergy (which oversees the well-being of priests) from 1973 through 1982, and vicar general (the bishop’s right-hand man) from 1982 through 1989. It’s Finaldi’s contention that Brown set the sex-abuse policies that allowed Velez and Guillen to work in Monterey when they allegedly abused the plaintiff.
In the deposition, Brown told Finaldi he hadn’t heard of Velez and Guillen until the current suit. But Brown admitted he handled two cases of sexual impropriety involving priests and children while in Monterey. The first occurred during the mid-1980s, when a priest admitted he lifted up a young girl to look up her dress while the parents stood by. Brown’s punishment for the priest: counseling, and a warning he couldn’t be alone around children.
Finaldi asked Brown if he filed a report with law enforcement. “I did not make one,” the bishop replied.
Did he direct someone else to do it?
“I do not recall.”
Did he let parishioners know about the incident?
“I do not recall.”
What’s remarkable about this exchange is that the Monterey diocese handled another looky-loo episode far differently. In 2000, Edward Molina – a lay worker at Madonna del Sasso Church in Salinas – pleaded guilty to lifting up the skirt of a 10-year-old girl and was sentenced to a month in jail. Monterey diocesan officials fully cooperated with authorities then, and Molina is currently registered as a sex offender.
The deposition continued. Finaldi pressed Brown about the other sexual misconduct incident during his five years as Monterey’s vicar general. It happened a couple of years after the skirt-lifting episode, when Brown received a letter from a young man who claimed a priest disrobed in front of him when he was a teenager during the 1970s. The priest didn’t deny or admit the flashing charge, but agreed to counseling and promised to stay away from teenage boys per Brown’s instructions.
Again, Brown didn’t report the incident to law enforcement. He told Finaldi, “When I met the alleged victim, he was already an adult, and had he seen the need to do that, he would have done that.”
A dumbfounded Finaldi reminded Brown that exposing yourself to a child or teen is a sex crime. Brown said he knew that.
“Now, seeing how it’s a crime,” Finaldi continued, “why didn’t you report it to the police?”
“I didn’t realize I had an obligation to report it to the police,” Brown replied.
California Penal Code Section 11165.7 requires priests to alert authorities about any suspected child abuse under penalty of “not more than six months in a county jail, by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment.” Yet, on the advice of attorneys for the Orange and Monterey dioceses, Brown never identified the two offending priests. The diocesan lawyers cited privacy concerns in their opposition, and instructed Brown to not even mention where the priests served or their ethnicity.
The bishop’s refusal to name names infuriates Finaldi’s boss, John Manly, who has settled sex-abuses cases against Catholic dioceses from San Diego to Alaska.
“Why isn’t Tod Brown looking at [church lawyers] and telling [them] to shut the hell up and give the names?” Manly asked. “Because that’s what Jesus would do. Brown’s moral compass is so askew that he sees no problem whatsoever in covering up.”