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Panel Concludes Friars Sexually Abused 34 Teen-age Boys at Seminary

November 30, 1993

GOLETA, Calif. (AP) _ At least 34 boys were sexually abused by a dozen Roman Catholic priests during decades of nude games, fondling and sex acts at a now-closed seminary, a panel organized by the Franciscan order concluded Monday.

″The abuse perpetrated by our own brothers on the victims and their families is truly horrific,″ said Joseph P. Chinnici, provincial minister of the Oakland-based Province of St. Barbara and leader of Franciscans in seven Western states.

″We totally abhor what has occurred,″ Chinnici said.

An independent panel was set up in January by the St. Barbara Province of the Franciscan Order to examine molestations from 1964 to 1987 at St. Anthony’s Seminary, which operated a high school boarding school for aspiring priests in Santa Barbara County.

The seminary opened in 1898 and closed because of financial problems in 1987.

The friars were involved in a variety of offenses, including nude games, nude photographs, fondling, masturbation, oral copulation and examination of genitals under the guise of hernia exams, the panel’s 72-page report said.

The youths ranged in age from 7 to 16.

Of the 12 priests, whose names weren’t disclosed, eight are being treated by therapists, one left the order, one died, and another’s case with the board is still open.

Another was criminally prosecuted for sexually abusing a minor in 1989 and was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest. He was released after six months.

After that case, other boys came forward with abuse allegations and the order decided to launch an investigation.

It set up a six-member panel, which included an attorney, three psychotherapists, a member of the order and one victim’s parent.

The panel chairman, Geoffrey Stearns, said the investigation would continue.

″We believe there will be other victims that will come forward when they are ready and able,″ Stearns said.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of the Los Angeles archdiocese, released a statement stressing that the seminary does not fall under the archdiocese’s jurisdiction.

He said archdiocesan officials were ″very supportive of the process which the Franciscans have followed in identifying the gravity and scope of the offenses, as well as in instituting procedures to prevent similar occurrences.″

Chinnici apologized on behalf of the friars to the victims and their families.

″It is not easy and we acknowledge this terrible truth in a public way because the public trust has been violated,″ he said.

Chinnici said the order has paid $90,000 so far for victims’ counseling.

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