REUTERS, November 30, 1993


A dozen Roman Catholic priests sexually abused 34 boys over two decades at a now-closed seminary, a three-year investigation by the Franciscan Order has found.

The abuses included nude games, spanking, fondling, masturbation and oral sex, a panel of six investigators found.

Speaking at a news conference Monday night in the Santa Barbara suburb of Goleta, 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Los Angeles, Geoffrey Stearns, the head of the panel, said it was stunned by the results.

"One of the friars had seven known victims, another friar had 18 known victims. The other friars had either two victims or one victim," he said.

The panel found that the abuses took place between 1964 and 1987 at St. Anthony's Seminary in Goleta, which operated a boarding school for aspiring priests. The seminary, which opened in 1898, closed in 1987 because of financial difficulties.

The panel was made up of a lawyer, a friar, three psychotherapists and the parent of an abused boy.

In a 72-page report, the panel said most of the victims were aged 14 to 16, but in some cases, friars had also abused the victim's younger brothers, some as young as seven.

Joseph Chinnici, the head of the Franciscan Order in the seven Western states, told the news conference, "We totally abhor what has occurred. . . There has been a desire to face the truth about ourselves and about our brothers. It's not easy."

"The abuse perpetrated by our own brothers on the victims and their families is truly horrific," he added.

According to the report, one friar "had a practice off calling students into his room to conduct 'hernia examinations' [which] included handling the students' genitals."

In another incident, "the friar had the student strip naked. He then beat the students buttocks with his bare hands until the student's skin broke. The student was reduced to sobbing," the report said. "The friar pulled the student toward hima and held him for a long time. . . during this embrace the student could feel the friar's erection through his clothing."

The report said only one of the friars was ever charged in connection with the abuses.. He pleaded no contest to oral copulation in 1989 and was sentenced to 12 months in jail. He was released after serving six months.

Santa Barbara police Lieutenant John Thayer said no other charges would be filed, although police now knew the identities of the offenders, because the statute of limitations had run out.

Of the other 11 friars, one has left the order, one died of natural causes, a third still faces a disciplinary hearing and the remainder are receiving therapy.

The report said that after the 1989 criminal prosecution, other boys came forward to tell their stories and as a result it was decided to launch an investigation.

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