LA archdiocese still missing the big picture on abuse cases

A priest who confessed to having sex with a teenage girl in the 1960s has just stepped down from ministry in the Los Angeles archdiocese — and appallingly, that’s still not the most outrageous part of this story:

The priest, the Rev. Martin P. O’Loghlen, was once a leader in his religious order and was appointed to an archdiocesan sexual abuse advisory board, although officials at both the order and the archdiocese knew at the time about his admission of sexual abuse and addiction. He served on the board, which was meant to review accusations of abuse by priests, for at least two years in the late 1990s, according to church and legal documents.

Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said church officials planned to announce the removal of Father O’Loghlen from his current parish in San Dimas on Sunday. Church officials decided to act after being contacted by a reporter about the priest’s history of sexual abuse.

An abuser…on the abuse review board. According to the article, O’Loghlen states that “he has undergone psychological evaluations, which determined that he is ‘not a pedophile’ or a ‘sexual predator.’ But, he adds, ‘I do have a sexual addiction.'” Somehow, I don’t find that very comforting.

 

What’s more, as late as 2009, the vicar general of his order wrote to the archdiocese, asking that he return to service in Los Angeles:

The letter included assurances that Father O’Loghlen “manifested no behavioral problems in the past that would indicate that he might deal with minors in an inappropriate manner” and had “never been involved in an incident or exhibited behavior which called into question his fitness or suitability for priestly ministry due to alcohol, substance abuse, sexual misconduct, financial irregularities, or other causes.”

He was appointed as an associate pastor in the San Dimas church four months later. Father O’Loghlen also worked at the parish’s elementary school.

The archdiocese’s Vicar for Clergy’s Office “did not fully consult” other records of the priest’s “previous assignments in the archdiocese, which would have indicated that he admitted to having had a sexual relationship with a female minor,” Mr. Tamberg said.

LA’s vicar for clergy has also stepped down — but if the case in Philadelphia last week is any indication, that may not be the end of it for him, either.

As the reader who alerted me to this article put it, “How can you not do background checks in 2009?” He’s exactly right. It’s as if no one has learned anything from the past nine years — and in Los Angeles of all places, with the highest abuse settlement of any American diocese. What more will it take before these painful lessons finally sink in?

Margaret Cabaniss

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Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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