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Stronger Clergy Sex-Abuse Board Getting Started in L.A. Archdiocese

June 21, 2002|TERESA WATANABE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A newly strengthened clergy misconduct review board vowed Thursday to rid the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles of any priest who sexually preys on children.

Board members, some of whom were formally introduced Thursday by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, include a sexual-abuse survivor, parents of young children, mental-health professionals, attorneys, a priest and a nun.

The new board, which will address only sexual misconduct, replaces a more informal advisory group whose names were kept secret. It wields broader authority to review every such allegation against clergy in the three-county archdiocese and make direct recommendations to Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles.

"The main thing we're interested in is ensuring that the priests

Mahony said the new panel, called the Clergy Misconduct Oversight Board, represents "another chapter in efforts of the archdiocese ... to make certain all [churches] are safe for children and young people."

Asked about further measures that would strengthen the board's independence, such as making board recommendations binding, or allowing an outside lay council to make some appointments, Mahony said there were roadblocks. He said he could not surrender such authority because only bishops are empowered under canon law to make personnel decisions about priests. He said, however, that he had widely consulted the community about potential board members and had closely followed the past board's advice.

More than 50 priests in the archdiocese are under investigation by law enforcement for allegations of sexually abusing minors.

The new board will have 13 members, not all of whom have yet been appointed by Mahony. Among other things, it will annually review archdiocesan sexual abuse policies, review all sexual misconduct complaints and verify that the archdiocese has reported them to civil authorities. It will also make recommendations on such things as pastoral outreach and whether to notify parishes of abuse allegations or remove offenders from ministry.

Unlike the previous board, the new oversight panel will monitor how closely Mahony follows its recommendations.

Other board members include:

* William and Judi Arnold, parents of boys molested by a priest.

* Nanette DeFuentes, a psychologist. DeFuentes said she was abused by a minister in a nondenominational Christian church from age 18 to 22, an experience she said has helped drive her passion to help survivors and help treat perpetrators.

* Sister Diane Donoghue, director of Esperanza Community Housing Corp., which builds affordable housing for low-income families. Donoghue, a member of Sisters of Social Service and a community organizer, said she brings experience working with immigrant communities and Catholic values of social and economic justice.

* James McGough, a professor of clinical psychiatry at UCLA, specializing in treatment of adults and children. McGough said he also brings the perspective of a father with two young children.

* Kevin Jablonski, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist.

* The Rev. Jarlath Cunnane, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Los Angeles. Cunnane works on immigrant rights, labor issues and improving community-police relations. A strong advocate of "zero tolerance" for sexually abusive priests, Cunnane said he hopes the new board will "bring some openness and transparency to the process and to the judgments that are made here."

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