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Abuse claim haunts pastor

Community: OLPH Catholic School parents threaten to remove children due to sexual accusations

Posted: April 7, 2010 9:45 p.m.
Updated: April 8, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
Some parents at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School in Santa Clarita are disturbed after learning their new pastor is a priest who has been accused of sexual molestation, they said Wednesday.

The worst part, they say, is when they confronted the school and Archdiocese of Los Angeles officials last month, they were told to keep mum about Father Richard M. Martini’s role in the church’s worldwide clergy abuse scandal, and that he was cleared of wrongdoing.

“If he comes to our parish, I will pull my daughter from the school,” said a 30-year-old mother who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear her third-grader might be subject to retaliation. “My job as a parent is to protect her and keep her out of harm’s way.”

Martini was accused by a prison inmate of fondling him when he was a boy at Our Lady Queen of Angels Seminary in Mission Hills during the 1990-91 school year. The alleged victim said it happened during a water polo event, while Martini was the vice-rector and dean of studies at the seminary.

Martini was never convicted of the alleged molestation. A civil case against Martini and other Los Angeles-area priests accused in other alleged abuse cases was settled for $60 million.

The 30-year-old mother said court records show the sexual molestation accusation against Martini, 55, was dismissed, but only because the Archdiocese paid the alleged victim to drop his case.

“If (Martini) is innocent, if he didn’t do this, only three people know: him, the victim and God,” she said. “If someone has been accused ... why put them back into the mix where children are constantly attending? Why not put them in a parish without children?”

Two calls to the school and two calls to the Archdiocese’s media relations division went unanswered. The school is closed this week because of Easter break. Martini could not be reached for comment.

However, the school posted a statement on its Web site acknowledging parents found out about the allegation against Martini on the Internet, but “unfortunately one has to go very far down the list on Google to find that Monsignor Martini was completely exonerated.”

It states Martini was fully investigated by a retired FBI agent and the Archdiocese’s Clergy Misconduct Oversight Board.

“The investigation concluded that there was no evidence of misconduct,” the statement reads.

It also states that a civil lawsuit was settled as part of several other cases brought in the Los Angeles area, and while Martini was “extremely reluctant to participate in the global settlement,” he did so to bring healing to the entire church.

“The settlement in no way validates the claims against him,” the statement reads.

In the alleged fondling case, Martini, now pastor at Transfiguration Parish, was accused of assault, sexual battery and mental anguish by an inmate at Corcoran State Prison in May 2002.

Joelle Casteix, Southwestern regional director of The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she was appalled to learn of parents’ claims that they were allegedly asked by church officials not to share any information about Martini with others.

“This is a gross violation ... of the Archdiocese’s own policy (Charter for Protection of Children and Young People) as well as every statement they’ve made to the media,” Casteix said on Wednesday. “The Office of Child Protection doesn’t want people to know. They want to keep the parish in the dark. This is horrible, horrible, horrible.”

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