In therapy sessions, the priest confessed the shocking details he’d kept hidden for years: He had molested more than 100 boys, including his 5-year-old brother. He had sex with male prostitutes.
The admissions of the Rev. Ruben Martinez are included among nearly 2,000 pages of secret files unsealed earlier this week that were kept on priests, brothers and nuns who belonged to religious orders but were accused of child molestation while working within the Los Angeles archdiocese.
The papers, which were released under the terms of a $660 million settlement agreement reached in 2007, are the first glimpse at what religious orders knew about the men and women they posted in Roman Catholic schools and parishes in the Los Angeles area. The archdiocese itself released thousands of pages under court order this year for its own priests who were accused of sexual abuse, but the full picture of the problem remained elusive without the orders’ records. Several dozen more files are expected to be released by the fall.
The documents cover five different religious orders that employed 10 priests or religious brothers and two nuns who were all accused in civil lawsuits of molesting children. Among them, the accused had 21 alleged victims between the 1950s and the 1980s.
Some of the files released, including those of the nuns, don’t mention sexual abuse at all, and others appear to have large gaps in time and missing documents. The release included documents from the Oblates, the Marianists, the Benedictines and two orders for religious sisters.
That the files don’t reflect some of the alleged abuse doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, said Ray Boucher, lead attorney for some abuse victims. “Much of this went unreported. You’re talking about kids that were terrorized and frightened in so many different ways, with no place and no one to turn to.”
At more than 500 pages, Martinez’s file is among the most complete, and it paints a devastating picture of a troubled and repressed child who later joined the priesthood to satisfy a domineering and devout father.
The Los Angeles archdiocese settled eight lawsuits over Martinez’s actions in 2007, but had little documentation on him in its own files even though the priest worked in its parishes for years in the 1970s and 1980s.
However, his order file includes graphic details described in therapy notes and psychiatric evaluations. It also reveals the years of effort – and tens of thousands of dollars – the Oblates spent trying to cure him of his self-admitted pedophilia as it shuttled him between programs, including inpatient treatment.
In 1965, Martinez took his final vows for a religious order called the U.S. Province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a nearly 200-year-old Catholic organization with roots in France. In 1969, he was ordained as a priest and assigned by his order to a small parish in Brawley, Calif.
In a 1993 psychiatric report – one of several such evaluations done between 1991 and 2005 by various treatment programs – the priest admitted to molesting children beginning in 1970, when he began playing “giddy up” games with young boys on his lap. In the documents, Martinez says he stopped “direct sexual contact” with boys after a mother complained to a pastor in 1982 and that he stopped touching boys altogether after another complaint in 1986.
It’s unclear whether his religious order or the archdiocese was aware of those complaints, but around the same time as the first complaint, Martinez began weekly therapy sessions. He entered a counseling program for people with sexual compulsions after the second complaint in 1986.
In 1991, he received five months of inpatient psychological treatment from a center in Jemez Springs, New Mexico that specialized in treating troubled priests.
Upon his release, Martinez was assigned to a tiny parish in the remote town of Westmorland, Calif., in the far southeastern corner of the state. While there, he would drive miles to San Diego to pick up male prostitutes, according to his file.
He was removed from parish ministry in 1993, enrolled in a sex offender program and sent to live and work at the order’s California headquarters in Oakland after another complaint surfaced from his past. For the rest of his career, he filled administrative roles.
Calls to the U.S. Province of the Oblates and emails to two attorneys representing Martinez and the three other Oblate priests whose files were released were not returned. Attorneys for the Benedictines and Marianists and a representative from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus also did not return calls.
Carolina Guevara, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles archdiocese, did not address the current file release specifically but said religious orders are expected to make sure the priests they present for ministry in the archdiocese don’t have any history of sex abuse.
One man who sued over Martinez’s abuse told The Associated Press that the priest molested children after he was assigned to his hometown parish in Wilmington, a working-class city south of Los Angeles, in 1972. The man, now 50, requested anonymity because he is well-known in his professional life and has not spoken publicly about his case before. The AP does not publish the names of victims of sexual abuse without their consent.
“He would have us wrestle each other and then wrestle with him, which means we’d get down into our skivvies and he’d take pictures of us. He was always taking pictures,” the man said. “I just remember the smell of the old Polaroid flash cubes. He would go through them like crazy.”
The man received a settlement in 2007 from the archdiocese. Martinez was never charged criminally; most of his alleged abuses weren’t reported until years later.
The man said Martinez always had a group of young boys around him and would take them to see R-rated movies and on group trips. One summer day, he recalled, the priest took six boys to a local amusement park, but stopped on the way at an apartment where another man lived. Martinez and the man went inside with one of the boys and left the other five in the car for several hours. When the trio came back, the boy was sobbing and didn’t stop for hours.
Martinez, now 72, has a most recent address at the Oblate Mission House in Oakland, Calif. No one answered the door there and a call was not returned on Wednesday. A receptionist at a Missouri retreat home for troubled priests – another possible place where Martinez could be living – would not say if he was there.
In 2003, after a decade in at the order’s California headquarters, Martinez was moved to the Oblates’ offices in Washington, D.C., where he worked answering phones and in the archives. There, his files show, he was reprimanded for making off-color, sexual jokes that offended several women and, later, for looking at sexually suggestive pictures of young boys on the Internet.
“I don’t know who else has time to monitor him, or to what ‘safe’ place we could assign him,” the Rev. Charles Banks, the vicar provincial and director of personnel for the Oblates wrote in an exasperated memo in 2003.
The file shows that Martinez was sent to the Missouri retreat home for troubled priests in 2005. In a psychiatric assessment dated that same year, Martinez said he hadn’t had sexual contact with a child in 23 years and had learned to control his impulses. The same report notes that at age 13, Martinez sexually molested his little brother and went on to molest “about 100 male minors” – a detail also included in several others therapy evaluations in the file.
“It has not been easy to face what I did, to admit it and to talk about it with others,” Martinez wrote to the order’s provincial in 2006. “I have had to deal with depression, self-hatred, the inability and unwillingness to forgive myself, and the desire and tendency to isolate.”
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