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priestly formation in L.A.

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 17, 2005

The LA Times has a bruising story on St. John's Camarillo, the seminary of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The grenade graf says "About 10% of St. John's graduates reported to have been ordained in the Los Angeles Archdiocese since 1950 -- 65 of roughly 625 -- have been accused of molesting minors," and the article goes on to paint a picture of sexual anarchy (largely, but not entirely, homosexual) on the seminary grounds. One former seminarian reports that he often could not use the dorm bathroom at night "because it was occupied by men having sex." Many LA priests interviewed claim to have been oblivious to the situation when they attended St. John's, and it must be conceded that the Times wants to foreground the most lurid allegations, but on the other hand the picture is different in no important respect from that given in Jason Berry's 1992 book on The Crisis.

Among several lines in the story worthy of comment, this one struck me:

J. Michael Hennigan, a lawyer for the archdiocese, conceded that exaggerated claims alone cannot account for the large numbers of alleged abusers in some graduating classes.

"There were a couple of years at that seminary where lightning struck," Hennigan said. "I doubt we'll ever figure out why."

"I doubt we'll ever figure out why." That sounds less like a man who has been flummoxed in his search for an elusive answer than one with zero appetite to find the answer in the first place. Is it really impossible to find out the causes?

When U.S. State Department official Alger Hiss was finally exposed as a Soviet agent in 1949, the government departments for which he worked did not simply give a "who wudda thunk it?" shrug and move on to business as usual. Researchers made an extraordinarily detailed examination of Hiss's entire career, asking above all "Whom did Hiss bring into government work? Whom did Hiss promote or recommend for sensitive tasks? Whom did Hiss try to torpedo? Who went out of his way to advance Hiss's career?" The premise, obviously, is that a security failure is rarely an isolated occurrence, that other miscreants will have escaped detection, and that by taking back-bearings one can discover some of the still-hidden villains among those whom the known subversive regarded as friendly. In the case of Hiss, both those he helped and those who helped him included men who turned out to be fellow Communists -- in addition to many dupes, of course.

Granted, a diocese lacks trained investigators and subpoena powers to conduct a full-scale government-style investigation. But then, a full-scale investigation isn't called for: we're talking about 625 men. If they wanted to know the answer badly enough they could put the right questions to the right people and connect the dots that would explain how it came about that "lightning struck" when and where it did.

"I doubt we'll ever figure out why." I doubt you will either, Mike, especially if you know the answer already.

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Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Nov. 18, 2005 8:09 AM ET USA

    Testifying under oath to a Federal Grand Jury should get to the bottom of it. By about 2015

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Nov. 17, 2005 11:35 PM ET USA

    "No one is so blind as he who refuses to see."

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Nov. 17, 2005 3:39 PM ET USA

    May one suggest that the second paragraph is also worthy of note: "The 66-year-old institution has trained hundreds of clerics for the archdiocese and smaller jurisdictions across Southern California and beyond. It is the alma mater of Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Diocese of Orange Bishop Tod Brown and other prominent prelates. Former San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, now the Vatican's chief enforcer of doctrine, taught at the school.

  • Posted by: Linus682 - Nov. 17, 2005 3:32 PM ET USA

    Time for an exorcist.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 17, 2005 3:24 PM ET USA

    If you want to read more about Ziemann, Mahony and Moreno (formerly of Tucson) see this link: http://www.bishop-accountability.org/ca-la/mahony-2003-03-b.htm It's even worse than you think.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 17, 2005 2:43 PM ET USA

    Want a clue? Before he was ever the Bishop of Santa Rosa, Patrick Ziemann was rector of the high school seminary. I wonder if his middle name is lightning? This is the man who ordained his lover to keep him close, raided the scrip program to support his high life style and left his diocese bankrupt and disgraced. He now lives the good life in Arizona after Archbishop Levada (remember him) made sure he wasnt prosecuted.

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