Caution or Cover up?

The first bit of news that I read in the August 13, 2006 Sunday edition of the San Antonio Express-News originated in Santa Rosa, California. It seems that, in April of this year, a priest of the local diocese reportedly confessed to his bishop that he had had sexual relations with a 12-year-old altar boy. The bishop, required by law to immediately report the alleged incident to Child Protection authorities, chose what he termed “caution” and did not make the report until May 1. The 68-year-old priest disappeared the very next day, likely to Mexico.

Not to worry. The bishop did say that he was sorry—in a letter read at Mass in every Catholic church in the three-state diocese..

SANTA ROSA, Calif. - A Roman Catholic bishop apologized Saturday for waiting several days to notify authorities about sexual abuse allegations against a priest, a delay that may have allowed the priest to flee to Mexico--Bishop sorry for not turning in priest, Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

Well, Bishop Daniel Walsh finally did get around to making the required report, though tardily. In the interim, the reportedly self-confessed child molester had a couple of weeks to search for a new hunting ground and prepare for his getaway run. According to the report, prosecutors are investigating to determine whether Walsh or other church official may have broken the law.

I what I suspect may be little more than whistling while walking past the cemetery, the bishop made what appears to me to be an ostentatious and public approximation of what Catholics term an act of perfect contrition.

"If I am found guilty for not taking immediate action, I will accept whatever punishment is imposed," Walsh said.--Ibid

A month and a half after Bishop Walsh got around to reporting what he had been told by priest Xavier Ochoa, the grinding wheels of law enforcement filed charges against the alter Christos.

Ochoa, 68, was charged June 22 with 10 felony counts and one misdemeanor count of child sex abuse involving three boys he allegedly abused. A warrant was issued for his arrest.--Ibid.

At the bottom of the page upon which the referenced news article appears, are links to eight other news stories dealing with priestly sexual predation and a major link to dozens of other contemporary stories on the same subject.

I believe that sexual abuse of a child is one of the most detestable of crimes the consequences of which may well afflict the victim for the remainder of his life. For an abuser of children be a religious leader entrusted with daring for those to whom he ministers is unconscionable. Yet the Roman Catholic Church is infested with such monsters. Priest Xavier Ochoa lived, worked and preyed in the Santa Rosa (California) Diocese. Sadly, he was not the only bad apple in that diocese.

Ochoa is the 17th priest from the diocese to be accused of molesting a total of 62 children. In all, the diocese has paid or promised to pay dozens of people nearly $20 million since 1990. - Official: Bishop delays abuse report, priest flees, June 23, 2006, © 2006 The Associated Press.

On July 26th, 2006, Federal authorities finally got around to filing a no-bail arrest warrant for Ochoa, who was accused of unlawfully fleeing to avoid prosecution for ten sexual felonies. More details here.

Some may wonder what action, if any, was taken against Bishop Walsh, who delayed reporting Ochoa's criminal activity, thus making it possible for Ochoa to run. Not much, as it turns out:

Bishop Daniel Walsh of the Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese will avoid criminal charges for delaying a report of suspected child sex abuse if he successfully completes a four-month counseling diversion program.

Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua said Monday the decision to offer diversion in lieu of filing charges was in no way letting Walsh off the hook for failing to immediately report the actions of Francisco Xavier Ochoa, a Sonoma priest wanted on 10 felony counts of sexual molestation. -- Martin Espinoza, D.A. says no charges for bishop, [Santa Rosa] "The Press Democrat," November 20, 2006, Copyright © 2007 The Press Democrat

At this writing, it's been more than a year since Ochoa made his run. As far as I have been able to leearn, he still hasn't been caught and/or made to stand trial for his actions/

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