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Man Who Protested at Mass Is Charged

July 23, 2005|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

Prosecutors filed misdemeanor charges Friday against a man who handcuffed himself to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony's chair during a recent Sunday Mass to protest the archdiocese's handling of the priest sex abuse scandal.

Victim advocates said they were outraged by the charges against James C. Robertson, who contends he was abused.

Robertson, 58, of Mount Washington, has sued the church, alleging he was molested by two Catholic brothers at a Gardena high school during the 1960s. He faces up to 1 1/2 years in jail and $2,000 in fines on charges of trespassing and disrupting a religious service.

"It's unbelievable," said Steven Sanchez, the Los Angeles director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "For the last five or six decades, priests have gone and confessed to Cardinal Mahony or his predecessors that they were molesting kids, and all this time, Cardinal Mahony and his predecessors could not find the LAPD's phone number ... until [Robertson] makes a silent protest."

A spokeswoman for Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo declined to comment, but church officials defended the prosecution.

"It's really about making sure that the rights of the people who want to worship are respected," said Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

Robertson was taken into custody based on a citizen's arrest filed by someone from the church. The Los Angeles Police Department and the city attorney's office would not identify who made the report. The protest occurred June 26 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.

The church was packed with more than 2,000 congregants, many of whom seemed oblivious to the incident. "But for people in the first few pews, they knew something was terribly wrong," Tamberg said.

Robertson's lawyer, Robert Brodney, said his client's actions caused "minimal impact."

"It's going to be a big issue whether there was any disruption," Brodney said.

Sanchez said Robertson and other victims are frustrated by what they see as efforts by the church to keep a lid on the scandal. Mahony and his attorneys have been battling the district attorney's office over the release of confidential priest personnel files advocates say would expose a coverup of clergy abuse.

"This is supposed to be a church of Christianity. Whatever happened to forgiveness? Whatever happened to turning the other cheek?" Sanchez said.

"Disrupting a religious service," Tamberg said, "only scares people and does not promote healing."

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