SoCal Man's Holy Week Vigil Seeks Release of Catholic Church Records

By Bruce Haring
Associated Press, carried in San Francisco Chronicle [Los Angeles CA]
April 14, 2003

An Oxnard policeman and alleged abuse victim hopes a Holy Week vigil and fast outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels will prompt church officials to release internal documents on Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse.

Manuel Vega, who launched his vigil and fast in front of the downtown cathedral on Palm Sunday, says he won't eat or leave until Easter Sunday.

Vega, 36, is sacrificing his vacation in an effort to prompt Cardinal Roger Mahony to release the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese's files on priests accused of sexual abuse. Mahony has refused, and church lawyers have said doing so would violate the priests' rights to privacy. The District Attorney has gone to court to demand the files, and a ruling is expected next month.

"What finally got to me was the lack of leadership to end this problem," Vega, 36, said as he stood outside the cathedral in the pouring rain on Monday. "Cardinal Mahony should lead by example. But he's been lacking."

The police officer wants the documents for a lawsuit he and nine others have brought, alleging they were sexually abused by Father Fidencio Silva at an Oxnard parish from 1979 to 1986. Silva has been charged with 25 felony counts of child molestation.

Vega not only wants the documents released but is calling on Mahony to acknowledge mistakes in handling the abuse allegations and accept responsibility by "being a man and stepping down."

He drew little attention Monday from passers-by as he held a sign proclaiming, "You can't hide the truth from God." Another, reading "Victims deserve truth and honesty," was propped against a nearby tree.

Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg did not return a call for comment Monday, but Vega said Mahony himself came out to talk with him on Palm Sunday.

"He said he was sorry for what happened and was praying for me," said Vega.

He said the cardinal also told him he could use the cathedral restroom, but security guards turned him away when tried to.

His protest drew mixed support from parishioners who visited the cathedral on Palm Sunday, Vega said, with some offering support while others told him to "get over it."

Although people paid him little attention Monday morning, one fellow Catholic who stopped to wish him well was Lisa Pardini of Los Angeles.

"He has to do something extreme to get attention," said Pardini, 32. "What else can he do to get his voice heard?"


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