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Former Catholic priest accuses another of abusing him as a teen

Lanowpriest A former Roman Catholic priest accused another former priest today of sexually abusing him in the rectory of a La Habra church when he was a teenager.

In a lawsuit filed in Santa Ana Superior Court, Ben Rodriguez, 45, said he was molested numerous times between the ages of 15 and 18 in the priest’s church apartment. On some occasions, the priest gave him muscle relaxants and sleeping pills before the abuse, Rodriguez alleged.

The lawsuit did not name the suspected priest, but Rodriguez identified him as Gordon J. Pillon in interviews and at a news conference today outside the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. At the news conference, Rodriguez handed out copies of a photograph of himself and Pillon, taken at the younger man’s confirmation nearly three decades ago.

Rodriguez alleges that Pillon, then an assistant pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in La Habra and Rodriguez’s spiritual advisor, took advantage of him while his parents were going through a divorce, eventually persuading him to sever his ties to his family and enter the seminary. Several years later, the two wound up working together at churches in Illinois, during which time Rodriguez served as an assistant pastor to Pillon.

Rodriguez served as a priest in the Diocese of Peoria for 16 years. In 2006, he decided to tell the diocese about the alleged abuse after another young man there told Rodriguez that Pillon had also made sexual advances toward him, Rodriguez said in an interview.

"Gordon wasn’t just a priest, he was like a cult figure," Rodriguez said. "He didn’t have a conscience."

Pillon, who was informed by a reporter about the lawsuit, denied any wrongdoing.

Pillon said he was removed from active ministry by the bishop in Peoria while Rodriguez’ allegations were investigated by Catholic officials. That investigation is ongoing, said Pillon, who is now a part-time college professor in Prague.

"He made an accusation against me at the Diocese of Peoria. That was sent to Rome. That case was not proven true," Pillon said. "It’s still in Rome. It just shocks me that he would take it to a civil court."

Rodriguez said that in response to his report on Pillon, the Illinois diocese gave him six days to leave his parish and the state. He said he was ordered to report to a treatment center in Pennsylvania to undergo therapy.

He said he asked if he could return after several months but was told he could not come back to Illinois. He soon moved back to California and left the priesthood. He is now working as a substitute teacher in Riverside County.

"When I gave the report, I knew this would be the end of my ministry," Rodriguez said. "I told friends, ‘I am denouncing a priest and I will probably have to leave the priesthood as a result.’ The priesthood is a fraternity. If you go against it, you are in trouble."

In the lawsuit, Rodriguez alleged that diocesan officials in Orange County had failed to "take reasonable steps to prevent sexual misconduct and molestation" in his case.

Officials in the dioceses of Orange and Peoria were not immediately available for comment.

-- Duke Helfand

Photo: Plaintiff Ben Rodriguez.  Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (21)

How sick, sick, sick, 15 to 18 years old is more than old enough to resist if you did not like it. I am sick of hearing about so called molestation when the victim is in their teens - especially young teenage males, they are quite strong and agile as teenagers and can get away if they want plus many keep returning to the scene of the crime for more - very preverted by both parties.

Greg - This isn't about resisting physically. If you are vulnerable (parents divorcing, feeling lost, no role model), anyone who shows you attention lures you in successfully. It's called brainwashing - um, kind of like organized religion. It would be very easy to blame the victim here, but in this country if you're under 18, you are vulnerable no matter what you and I think about the capabilities of a 15 year old.

Trying focusing your anger on the fact that there is such a fraternity-like environment in the priesthood that despite wrongdoing, they protect each other to no end. How very Christian.

Any other organization would be forced to dismantle or very quickly lose most if not all of its members after so many accusations of ANYTHING let along something as sick as molestation. Everyone needs to wake up. Pray to your God at home with your money in your pocket. The Catholic church is a joke.

CW has got it right. Greg is horribly unaware of victim responses to traumatic experiences among sexual abuse victims. The Church is a joke -- call Patricia Gibson at the Catholic Diocese of Peoria (their attorney/chancellor) and ask her for the public records or statements regarding Gordon Pillon's removal from Peoria -- probably won't be much. He was whisked away while in a severely drug induced state, went to a treatment center for while out of state, and disappeared altogether. He later turned up teaching and working in admissions at the Prague campus of the UNVA. This guy should not be working with youth. He should be arrested for his drug felonies and for his repeated sexual abuse of minors and incapacitated adults. Oh, you can reach the Diocese of Peoria at 309-671-1550. While at it, you can see how Catholic Diocese of Peoria is still shuffling and protecting sex offenders by asking how it is that Monsignor Stuart Swetland was taken from his campus ministry at the University of Illinois and sent off to Mount Saint Mary's Seminary (and undergraduate university) in Emmitsburg, MD. Nothing wrong with being gay, for either of these guys, but abusing positions of power and authority to coerce or simply take sexual favors from young men, some minors is wrong. Not as wrong as the Catholic Diocese of Peoria protecting them, moving them, hiding them, and refusing to care for the victims. Ask for answers from the Catholic Diocese of Peoria - Patricia Gibson 309-671-1550

Greg: Your comments dismiss the reasons why 18 is the age of consent in California. That age was chosen because it reflects a certain level of maturity for most kids. Most 15 and 16 year-olds are still very vulnerable emotionally and psychologically. This is not just about physical abuse, it's about emotional abuse that results in physical abuse. Everybody is different and responds differently, but the statutes can often only define boundaries with a bright line. If these allegations are true, the priest clearly crossed the line.

Sickening.

Greg -
Did you even read the article?

Fight back when he's been drugged?
Fight back when it's a man of god and your idol?
Fight back when no one would possibly believe you?

You obviously have no idea what you are talking about.

Remember, ANOTHER person came forward which spurred Rodriguez to come forward.

There is a pattern of molestation here which seems quite evident with a majority of these pedophile priests, yet the Vatican has repeatedly covered it up by moving them to different Parishes.

Yes, the "Alleged" Sexually Predatory Priests are always shocked when their, "Alleged" Victims find the courage to speak out about what was done to them and how they've suffered in silence for so long. However, in this case, we see a man (Mr. Rodriguez) who knows the Roman Catholic Church from the inside out and therefore, has no reason to lie. And Pillon, this "Alleged" Sexual Predator, is working as a substitute teacher in Riverside. I DO Hope Someone Has Alerted Riverside County about this man. I wish Mr. Rodriguez the best of success in his law suit against the Roman Catholic Church.

c,

that's a startling accusation against Msgr. Swetland. The whispering has always been he was moved because he knew about Pillon and Rodriguez and didn't say anything. I'd be interested in anything you know to the contrary.

ffp.chris@gmail.com

Greg, sorry if hearing about the sexual victimization of Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults by Perverted Roman Catholic Clergy makes you sick and ruins your day. But it has been proven in the courts with case, after case, after case, what power these anointed, yet fallen Catholic Clerics had over their victims; and in many cases, multiple victims. That is why the Catholic Church has paid out close to 3 Billion Dollars in settlements (which is only the beginning); and continue to offer feeble apologies that most victims don't believe anyway. If you want to stop hearing about the sexual butchery of Catholic Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults, perpetrated by Roman Catholic Priests, Brothers, Deacons, Nuns and (Yes) Bishops, tell Pope Ratzinger to make his Anointed Clergy stop their deviant perverted ways. Simple As That. The Church preaches sexual abstinance. Let them practice what they preach.

Once again another sick SOB who deserves to be punished for their crimes.

Execute the molestor and make the world a better place.

John

When are people going to wake up and abandon the Catholic church (or any church for that matter)? Is it any surprise that an institution of old men in weird hats has abused young kids?

"How sick, sick, sick, 15 to 18 years old is more than old enough to resist if you did not like it. I am sick of hearing about so called molestation when the victim is in their teens - especially young teenage males, they are quite strong and agile as teenagers and can get away if they want plus many keep returning to the scene of the crime for more - very preverted by both parties."

Let me guess Greg, you also blame children who are sexually abused for years on end by a family member for not fighting back. I'd suggest that you "get a life", but I'd rather you educate yourself about the psychological power that sexually abusive authority figures hold over their victims. Your attitude more closely resembles that of the Catholic church hierarchy than that of law enforcement or medical professionals. The only thing I find "sick, sick, sick" is your suggestion that victims of sexual abuse are "perverts" who actually enjoy being violated by a person they have been taught to trust and respect.

Unfortunately, the Church's lack of compassion and denial of justice for Mr. Rodriguez is not atypical. He is but one of thousands of abuse victims the Church has attempted to silence through ostracizing and marginalization. For decades, the Church has gone to great lengths to punish victims while moving offending clergy from parish to parish, in hopes that the allegations don't spread from one parish to another. In doing so, the Catholic hierarchy succeeded only in putting other children at risk. And children will continue to be at risk, so long as the Church and people like Greg perversely insist that victims of sexual abuse somehow "ask for it" and "enjoy it." Sick thinking, indeed!

The Catholic church IS very sick and wrong. Ex-Catholic....GUILTY! GUILTY.. I was born a completely GUILTY baby. How absurd is that? A baby born guilty. IGNORANCE TO THE MAX>

IN RESPONSE TO C
.Your comments are very well founded. the Truth about Fr. Gorodn goes so much deeper than people understand.
All his parishioners know he was "whisked away while in a severely drug induced state". What they don't know is that several priests and lay people denounced him for revealing confessions on a GRAND SCALE.
The Diocese hid that scandalous fact, and then protected him from ever being accountable. After all, he was a good friend of the bishop.

TO GREG:
Haven't you read about cult leaders? or about SPIRITUAL LEADERS who influence young men? Seriously! Many abusers lure, influence, manipulate, coerce and seduce innocent young adolescents to do terrible things, using their positions of power. What position of power is greater than a Spiritual leader who represents God himself? Stop blaming a victim.

"The priesthood is a fraternity. If you go against it, you are in trouble."

That quote sums it up why these crimes are not reported and the priests get away with this kind of behaviour for years.

As a young girl who with Ben and other teens hung out with Fr. Gordon during our high school years, I find Ben's accusations unbelievable. It would be interesting to know if there are others from our group who experienced abuse by Fr. Gordon. I am also unaware any foster homes Ben may have lived in. We hung out at his parents home in La Habra heights with his other siblings. If he was in Foster Care why was he living with his birth parents? It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

I too am one of the teenagers that hung around Gordon while he was at OLG. There very much was a cult following around Fr. Gordon. I dont recall Ben living with foster parents but i do recall the family situation being very bad. It was somthing we didnt bring up with Ben because a was such an aquard situation. I was also molested by a priest at OLG and have no problems beliving Ben. I was one of the OC victims that sued the dicoses a few years ago. As a matter of fact I remember several conversations discussing the odd relationship between Ben and Gordon. i recall on many occasions the quantaties of wine being consumed in Gordons room. The wild times were common. I recall several comments made to me by Gordon that were inappropriate by a priest to a teenage boy. We all loved him at the time but that dosnt change what happened to Ben and i suspect that it might have occured with another teen as well. Hang in there Ben. You will get through this.

I was very good friends with Ben and was hanging around the church at this time. Im appauled that people don't listen to adults who finally speak up about being molested as a youngster!!! Good for you Ben, Im sorry you had to go through this terrible experience. I don't blame him for looking up to Gordon, EVERYONE did, he was like bigger than life and everyone trusted their kids with him . Now that I have kids of my own I believe what they say! If Ben would have said something at the time , everyone would have told him he was crazy and that would be the end of it. And Gordon was a father figure to a lot of 'little' boys, If this did happen it is very common for the victim not to say anything and feel obligated to that person. Shame on all of you who after all these years of priests abusing children think Ben just made this up.Kudos for Ben for speaking up, I wish you all the luck in the world. J.P.

THE TRUTH ABOUT FR. GORDON PILLON

1. OUR LADY OF THE ANGLES SEMINARY HIGH SCHOOL
2. ST. JOHN'S SEMINARY COLLEGE
3. ST. JOHN MAJOR SEMINARY - ORDAINED 1979 DIOCESE OF ORANGE

- 10 YEARS IN DIOCESE OF ORANGE
MANY COMPLAINTS ABOUT HIS BEHAVIOR

MOVED TO PEORIA 1989
(RODRIGUEZ MOVED TO PEORIA 1989)

WHILE IN PEORIA DIOCESE
- BRADLY UNIVERSITY NEWMAN CENTER, PEORIA
- ST. THOMAS CHURCH, PEORIA
- ST. EDWARD'S, CHILOCOTHE -
- ST. John the Baptist, Clinton, IL

- WHILE IN PEORIA, STARTED A CULT FOLLOWIN AND TRIED TO BE THE LEADER OF HIS OWN RELIGIOUS GROUP "ORDER OF ST. MICHAEL"
- BISHOP JOHN MYERS shut him down.
- MOVED TO Diocese OF CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA
- TOOK YOUNG SEMINAIANS WITH HIM / Abused them
- PASOR - PARISH IN HICKORY, NORTH CAROLINA
- DIOCESE OF CHARLOTTE returned him to DIOCESE OF PEORIA due to inappropriate behavior and complaints about his drug use.
- St. John's Catholic Chapel, Champaign, IL
- ST. PATRICK'S, WAPELLA, IL
- ST. HYACINTH'S, LASALLE, IL -
- investigated for embezzlement
- drug intervention
- removed for drug use. sent to rehab
- SEVERAL PRIESTS AND LAY PEOPLE REPORT TO BISHOP JENKEY that Fr. Gordon had been revealing cofessions.
- Bishop Jenkey tries to cover it up and make it go away.
- Fr. Rodriguez reports about childhood abuse.
- Fr. Rodriguez is removed.

HYM8NNZ:

Was Rodriguez really removed already?? Where is the documentation for this? I would like to see some sources because I am writing a paper about the sex abuse scandals.

Thanks!

Ben,
Thanks for being there for me in Peoria,
ILL. You are a wonderful person.

I was good friends with Ben Rodriguez from 1983 to 1986. Ben and I went to St. John's Seminary together, and I had met Fr. Pillon several times, and I observed and felt the power he had over people. He was very dynamic, and made you feel good to be involved in the church.

Speaking for myself, I can say that as an 18 year old in the seminary, I was very book smart, but not very emotionally mature. I suspect this was common among teenagers devoted to the church, as it was very sheltered. This lack of maturity makes it easier to be taken advantage of sexually. I was solicited by Fr. Dan Buckley. In his case, quite a few people came forward who had been abused.

Ben, it took great courage to let the truth come out, and I admire that. I hope that when it settles, you'll find some peace.


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