When the Los Angeles Archdiocese pays $60 million to settle sexualabuse claims, millions will go to the alleged and confirmed victims oftwo former Corpus Christi priests.
The victims of Fathers George Neville Rucker, 86, and the allegedvictim of Richard Martini, 51, were among 45 accusers who said theywere sexually abused by L.A. priests. No known victims were members orstudents of Corpus Christi.
Thirty-eight females have accused Rucker, the former Corpus Christipastor, of molesting them as children from 1947 to 1980, making him themost cited priest since the L.A. Archdiocese began recording abuseclaims in 1930.
One man said that Father Martini showed 'inappropriate conduct' withhim when he was a student at Our Lady Queen of Angels Seminary in theearly 1990s. Although the archdiocese settled with the accuser, itdisputes the man's account. Martini is an active priest, working atTransfiguration Catholic Church in Los Angeles.
Rucker was charged in 2002 with 29 counts of molesting seven girlsduring the 1970s and arrested while aboard a cruise ship in Alaska. Butin 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law thatextended the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children.That decision freed Rucker from all criminal charges, but it did notstop dozens of lawsuits against him and the archdiocese. Most of thosecases have yet to be settled.
According to publicly available archdiocese reports, investigationsbeginning in the 1960s confirmed abuse allegations against Rucker, butthe Church continued a policy of reassigning him to parishes withelementary schools. And abuse followed.
After confirming Rucker's abuse for the first time in the early 1960s,then-Bishop Timothy Manning persuaded the mother of a molested girl notto press charges against the priest with the pledge that the Churchwould handle the situation, according to police reports.
But instead of reassigning Rucker away from contact with children,Manning assigned Rucker to St. Anthony's, a church with an elementaryschool in El Segundo. He spent six years there beginning in 1961, andtwo women later accused him of molesting them when they were nine yearsold.
One of the women brought criminal charges against Rucker in 1994, butan L.A. Superior Court judge dismissed the case, citing the statute oflimitations. Rucker settled a civil lawsuit with one of the women bypaying $20,000 without acknowledging wrongdoing. His lawyer argued thatthe woman believed false memories created by a therapist.
In its 'Report to People of God' published in 2004, the archdiocesedescribed the decision to reassign Rucker to positions where he was incontact with children: 'Although Bishop (later Cardinal) Manning isdeceased and cannot be asked his motives, the transfer was consistentwith the normal response used at the time in which these cases wereseen as sins requiring spiritual solutions. The priest in question haddiscussed and reflected upon it with his Bishop. Subsequently, FatherRucker served in a number of different parishes until his retirement in1987.'
The archdiocese said that it had no further allegations against Ruckeruntil after his retirement in 1987. But archdiocese reports shownumerous complaints of inappropriate physical contact with girls whilehe was St. Anthony's between 1965 and 1967.
After his tenure at St. Anthony's, Rucker was transferred to St.Agatha's, a parish and elementary school in Los Angeles. Jackie Dennishas filed a suit against Rucker and the archdiocese, claiming that shewas the victim of almost daily molestation by Rucker when he becamepastor at St. Agatha, where she went to school.
Rucker's record of abuse began soon after his ordination in 1946 withhis assignment to St. Alphonsus in East Los Angeles. Profiled in afront-page Los Angeles Times article ('She Can't Forgive Mahony'sInaction') last Saturday, Mary Dispenza Esfahan described her repeatedmolestation by Rucker beginning when she was 7 years old in theCatholic school's auditorium. Decades after her abuse, she confrontedhim and asked why he did it. 'He said that it was because of hishormones,' she recalled.
Rucker was pastor at Corpus Christi from 1979 until his retirement in1987. He continued to live there until he was forcibly removed in April2002 and placed in an assisted-living center for priests in West L.A.,following a 'zero-tolerance' policy toward confirmed sexual predatorsinitiated by Cardinal Roger Mahony.
Mahony has been the subject of much criticism for his handling ofpriests with confirmed records of sexual abuse. Although he becamebishop after Rucker had already been assigned to Corpus Christi, he didnot remove him from the parish until 2002, long after the archdiocesereceived multiple abuse allegations.
Another former Corpus Christi priest, David Granadino, has been accusedof molestation by several former male students in Norwalk and Azusa.Following the allegations, the archdiocese revoked his ability toperform the duties of priesthood in 2003. His accusers were not part oflast week's settlement, which dealt with only a portion of the 570existing sexual abuse claims.
Since 2002, the archdiocese has not allowed priests with confirmedsexual-abuse records to serve the duties of the priesthood or to be inthe proximity of children.
Father Liam Kidney, pastor of Corpus Christi, said the church takes allallegations seriously. 'We turn any allegations immediately over tochild protective services. And we let them investigate it. We also willinform the archdiocese.'
To report child abuse in Los Angeles County, call the toll-free ChildProtection Hotline at (800) 540-4000. If calling from outsideCalifornia, call (213) 639-4500.
for a listing of alternate locations.