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... Not Just L.A., The City of Angels Is Everywhere...

I was age five when the bishop stood over me and said, "Stop babbling about what the priest did to you." Then, forty years later... I started babbling.
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Priest Takes Boys on a Drunken Camping Trip to Yosemite. Santa Barbara Story Part 8, wait until you see Parts 9 and 10

We continue to run direct quotes from two lawsuits filed Fall 2009 regarding priests at St. Anthony's Seminary, which closed in 1987.
Then someone handed me a piece of evidence from a 1990s lawsuit against those same Franciscans, this a "sexual diary" of Van Handel. After we post documents concerning a third lawsuit, from another adult victim of the Franciscans of St. Anthony's Seminary, we will have figured out what to do with the contents of the sexual diary. The document was apparently copied and passed around a bit during the early 1990s, I guess before Church attorneys realized they better scrounge everything up and find a way to con-vince a judge to keep everything sealed. I'm reading it now, a few pages at a time as it is hard to take. This is what I read this morning, from the period early 1980s when the predator priest was Rector of the high school for boys, expect more to come soon:

Van Handel wrote: "A Franciscan priest and former faculty member was accused of molesting two young men while they were students at St. Anthony's. Not only was I best of friends wiwth this family, but unknown to them at the time, I had molested the same two boys when they were in choir, by tickling them and touching their genitals. Now I was expected to console the families, deal with the anger of the parents, because the offender was in the faculty."

In a state Van Handel goes to his therapist: "I explained in general terms the state of my life. He helped me to pull out of my depression, but I don't think I ever really completely recovered." Nice to know the adults were all so concerned about each other while the children were being raped. Here is Santa Barbara Part 6:

[In the 1980s, seeking refuge from a broken home, Ernesto becomes an altar boy and dreams of becoming a priest. He ends up living in a nightmare when he goes away to high school at St. Anthony's Seminary in Santa Barbara. A Franciscan would mishandle him in the hallways "on a sometimes weekly basis." Then two Franciscan perpetrators take Ernesto and another boy for a camping trip to Yosemite, the experience in the tent haunts Ernesto to this day. Ernesto's experience is documented here in the words from another lawsuit. Here is Part 6 of the Santa Barbara story (2009), direct quotes from First Amended Complaint in Case 1337577 filed October 5, 2009 in Santa Barbara Superior Court (more attribution below):]

10. Plaintiff Ernesto C. grew up in Richmond, CA, and was raised in a devout Roman Catholic family. They attended Mass every Sunday and Ernesto served as an altar boy. He began attending Catholic School in sixth grade, and soon thereafter decided he wanted to become a priest. During 8th grade he applied to several seminaries, ultimately deciding on St. Anthony’s.

Like so many victims of clergy abuse he also was the product of a broken home. The absence of a father figure in his life made Ernesto all the more dependent on paternal figures such as priests, and made him all the more vulnerable to predators willing to exploit this void in Ernesto’s life. St. Anthony’s was home to a horrific number of such predators.

Franciscan perpetrator Dave Johnson was everywhere at the school, he'd wrestle with them ...

When Ernesto enrolled at St. Anthony’s for his freshman year in 1979, it was immediately clear Franciscan perpetrator Dave Johnson was everywhere at the school, and was permitted to have extensive and inappropriate physical contact with students. Johnson openly touched and massaged students, wrestled with them, and engaged in regular physical contact with students in public places.

Such conduct between students and faculty was part of the accepted culture created and fostered by the Franciscans at St. Anthony’s. During Ernesto’s sophomore year in 1980-81 he was a frequent recipient of Johnson’s abusive conduct.

On a sometimes weekly basis that year Johnson would approach from behind and without invitation massage Ernesto’s shoulders when walking down the halls. Johnson was openly and inappropriately affectionate towards Ernesto, and was observed massaging Ernesto’s chest while in public on school grounds. During Spring break of this school year Johnson escalated his conduct into more extreme abuse.

Johnson asked Ernesto and another student, Victim #850, to go camping at Yosemite with Johnson and another perpetrator, Br. Berard Connolly. The entire school and faculty were aware that these two men were taking the two boys on an overnight trip as, at least amongst the students, Ernesto and Victim #85 were considered lucky and cool to have been chosen.

A Drunken Trip to Yosemite, with at least two sexual assaults: Two Perps and two Teenage Boys ...

No efforts were made by the Franciscans to stop the trip from happening, and the four left from the school without objection by the Franciscans. The two men and the two boys drove to Yosemite in a school van. Ernesto remembers thinking it was a bit strange he and Victim #85 had been invited as they were not friends.

The fact they had been targeted for abuse never crossed Ernesto’s mind. At the campground there were two tents, with Victim #85 and Connolly in one, and Johnson and Ernesto in the other.

Over the next two days Johnson sexually assaulted Ernesto on at least two occasions, including an assault while hiking and another the first night in the tent they shared.

Before the assault in the tent the four had been sitting around the campfire. Connolly and Victim #85 eventually went to their own tent and Ernesto found himself alone with Johnson. After they left Johnson smiled and said "I’ve got a surprise for you, " pulling out a bottle of Bacardi.

The fact Johnson now wanted to provide him with alcohol to celebrate something they accomplished together made Ernesto feel special

Ernesto was euphoric, believing Johnson meant this as a celebration for their having completed a long hike together earlier that day. Ernesto looked up to Johnson as a spiritual counselor, an authority figure, and, most important, as someone who spoke with the voice of God. Johnson in many ways filled the paternal void created when Ernesto’s father abandoned their family.

The fact Johnson now wanted to provide him with alcohol to celebrate something they accomplished together made Ernesto feel special, and provided Ernesto with feelings of paternal validation he had long craved. Johnson handed the bottle to the boy and induced him to drink about half the bottle.

Once Ernesto was very inebriated, Johnson walked the boy to the tent where Ernesto fell face-first onto his sleeping bag, drunk, groggy and wanting nothing more than to go to sleep. Johnson had other plans.

Knowing he had rendered the boy into a vulnerable state Johnson exploited the situation and sexually assaulted Ernesto. Ernesto recalls struggling against the assault, hearing the noise of the struggle from the rustling of the sleeping bags, but being too groggy and intoxicated to stop the abuse by the much bigger and stronger man.

Ernesto was raised in a devout Roman Catholic family that idolized priests, was taught by Defendants to trust, revere and obey priests as God’s representatives on earth, and had enrolled at St. Anthony’s with the dream of himself becoming a priest. Ernesto also was the product of a broken home and was desperate for paternal validation. Johnson exploited these things to manipulate Ernesto, who was approximately fifteen (15) years of age.

When Johnson showered Ernesto with praise and affection while grooming him for abuse, Ernesto was euphoric at receiving such long-craved paternal attention from a man he considered the voice of God and thus infallible. When Johnson’s grooming became sexual abuse Ernesto’s subconscious was unwilling and unable to recognize the wrongfulness of Johnson’s conduct as doing so would have destroyed his long-held faith in the infallibility of Roman Catholic priests.

It also would have ripped away the newfound paternal validation that he craved and that Johnson had mercilessly recognized and exploited during the grooming process.

To this day there remain parts of Johnson’s assault in the tent that he has been unable to recall

As a result, when the abuse began Ernesto was overwhelmed with shock and confusion. Unable to acknowledge that this man he had been groomed to trust, admire and depend on was sexually assaulting him, Ernesto shut-down and disconnected, dissociating himself from the horror of what was taking place and repressing all memory of the abuse. It was not until many years later that Ernesto began to recover memories of Johnson’s abuse.

To this day there remain parts of Johnson’s assault in the tent that he has been unable to recall, and he still has no memory of waking up the next morning. In an illustration of both his desperation for a trusted father figure and the strength of his repression he recalls having a special feeling towards Johnson the morning after the assault, as if they were family and shared a strong familial connection.

He recalls thinking it was nice to have such a wonderful connection with a father-figure who Ernesto also considered a brother in the Lord. Ernesto has been able to recall little of the remainder of the trip. He knows they spent a second night at the camp, but has been unable to recall what occurred.

Ernesto even asked his perpetrator Johnson to officiate at his wedding in 1985 (something we've seen in many cases around the country, that attachment...)

Further illustration of the extent of the repression of the memory of the abuse is the fact until relatively recently Ernesto considered Johnson a special person in his life. Ernesto asked Johnson to officiate at his wedding in 1985, wrote Johnson for guidance, felt compelled to share with Johnson in approximately 1998 the fact he (Ernesto) had a profound religious experience at a Cursillos, and as recently as 2000 or 2001 felt compelled to tell Johnson he loved him (Johnson) as a brother in the Lord.

When contacted by an investigator in the late 1990s and asked whether he had been abused at St. Anthony’s, Ernesto was adamant in stating he had not. It was not until Ernesto began to recover these memories that he realized Johnson, his perceived savior, had crossed the line into sexual abuse. As a result of his reverence for Johnson and his repression of memories of the abuse Ernesto could not understand the wrongfulness of Johnson’s conduct, and internalized feelings of shame, self-blame, and self-loathing, while blocking out and dissociating from those feelings, rendering him unable to perceive the injuries he suffered from Johnson’s abusive conduct and its effect on his lifeAfter the abuse Ernesto’s life began a downward spiral.

Without understanding his own behavior, Ernesto rebelled against authority figures and abused alcohol and drugs. The alcohol abuse went on for decades, and remains a continuing challenge for Ernesto. In the summer of 2006, Ernesto’s abuse-related self-medication with alcohol had grown so out of control that he began treatment for alcoholism that required substantial self-analysis and introspection. It was during this process that Ernesto first realized Johnson’s abuse had caused him injury. He also began for the first time to understand his own feelings surrounding the abuse, how the abuse has affected him, and how it continues to affect him.

Prior to the summer of 2006, Ernesto did not know or understand his own feelings regarding the abuse, much less that it had caused him injuries as an adult.


Stories in this Santa Barbara series are copied word for word from First Amended Complaint for Damages and Relief, Filed in Santa Barbara Superior Court, Case Numbers 1338070 filed November 3, and 1337577 filed October 5, 2009. filed by

Law firm of Nye Peabody Stirling & Hale

The previous episodes of Santa Barbara Story 2009:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Continued in Santa Barbara Story Part 7 soon

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