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Clergy abuse victims: 'We demand justice'

Victims of child sexual abuse stand before the media to discuss the recent release of hundreds of pages of clergy sex abuse files made public as a part of a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles outside of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Tuesday. Credit: Christina House / Los Angeles Times

Standing a few feet outside the doors of the Los Angeles Archdiocese headquarters, clergy abuse victims who settled with the church in a landmark $660-million settlement called for the release of the documents it agreed to make public in 2007.

The demands come in the wake of internal Catholic church records released Monday in a separate claim. Those memos, written in 1986 and 1987 by Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, then the archdiocese's chief advisor on sex abuse cases, displayed a concerted effort by officials to shield abusers from police.

Flanked by people who said they were abused by clergy, Joelle Casteix, western regional director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, demanded the release of the files. She also called for the immediate removal and punishment of any abuser still in the church.

DOCUMENT: Los Angeles Archdiocese priest abuse files

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles must end his silence, Casteix said, and release the unredacted documents of those involved in molesting children, as well as those who helped cover it up.

“They must be held accountable to the same laws that everyone standing behind me here is held accountable to,” Casteix said. “We are victims of clergy sexual abuse and supporters. We demand justice; we deserve justice.”

Manuel Vega, one of the victims who was part of the 2007 settlement, said he was abused from the time he was 10 years old until he was 15. He said it's important for the public to understand exactly what took place and why the unreleased files are important.

"To feel the hands of the priest on me, the breath of the priest on the back of my neck, to feel him press against my body, to feel him violate me," Vega said, "you have to put yourself in that moment to see what Cardinal Mahony is protecting."
Vega said he remains frustrated because the lawsuit was about making the abuse files public and holding those responsible accountable -- and not about money.

“The church continues to drag its feet,” Vega said. “Try living in my shoes for one day.”

Jim Robertson, 66, of Los Angeles said he was abused by two religious brothers at Junípero Serra High School in Gardena. One of them, he said, abused him for 10 days until a friend he confided in told school administrators.

On Tuesday,  Robertson, who was part of the 2007 settlement, held up a pair of handcuffs and said they should be used to bring clergy who abused children to justice. Robertson said he used the same cuffs to tie himself to Mahony’s chair during a 2005 church service in protest of how the church handled the abuse cases.

"This is for the victims who are dead," he said, holding the handcuffs in the air. "This is for the victims who have not been compensated."

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-- Adolfo Flores

Photo: Victims of child sexual abuse stand before the media outside of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Tuesday. Credit: Christina House / Los Angeles Times

 
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