The complaint alleges that the Rev. Chris Cunningham sexually molested a 12-year-old boy at St. Louise de Marillac Catholic Church from 2001 to 2002 and states that the archdiocese failed to inform parishioners about the allegations.
Parishoner Kay Baker, 81, of Covina hugs the Rev. Chris Cunningham of Covina at his final farewell on March 10, 2004, at St. Louise de Marillac Catholic Church in Covina.
A lawsuit filed Thursday claims Cunningham allegedly molested two boys while he was at the church. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio/Freelancer/SVCITY)
By Stephanie K. Baer, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Cunningham, the church and the archdiocese are named defendants in the case. The plaintiff, who is now 25 years old, is not identified and was one of at least two victims of the priest’s sexual abuse, alleges Anthony DeMarco, an attorney for the plaintiff.
“The archdiocese was especially sneaky in the way that they handled this case,” DeMarco said in a statement. “Despite all of their promises of transparency, Cardinal (Roger) Mahony refused to tell parishioners about the allegations in 2004.”
Then, in 2013, Archbishop Jose Gomez “quietly released” Cunningham’s name on a list of accused priests but neglected to notify the parishes where Cunningham had worked, DeMarco said.
The complaint states that the archdiocese and the Covina church should have known that Cunningham was violating rules designed to prevent child molestation by “regularly having underage boys alone with him in his church living quarters; regularly wrestling with underage boys on church grounds; (and) regularly meeting underage boys without chaperons for outings to movies, Starbucks and other locations.”
“I would find it highly unlikely that folks who worked at the parish or were very involved with the parish would not have known about Father Cunningham’s contact with minors,” DeMarco said. “I don’t know how a kid makes it up to a priest’s rectory bedroom without parish staff seeing.”
The archdiocese said in a statement Friday afternoon that it has not yet been served with the complaint and has “no prior information concerning this allegation.”
|San Gabriel Valley, California|
At the time of Cunningham’s removal, parishioners at St. Louise de Marillac were furious.
Thousands sent letters to then-Archbishop Mahony demanding that Cunningham be reinstated. About 150 supporters staged a rally outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles asking Mahony to reconsider his reassignment.
The archdiocese initially called the removal a personnel matter and declined to elaborate. Later on, in a letter sent to parishioners at the Covina church, Mahony said the priest was emotionally unstable, harsh in exercising authority and interfered with an internal church investigation.
After releasing the letter, Mahony declined to give more details on the dismissal. In 2005, Cunningham was placed on a leave of absence from the Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Ventura due to allegations that he acted improperly during World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany.
A representative from the archdiocese told the Ventura parish that Cunningham showed poor judgment, violated archdiocesan standards on appropriate ministerial boundaries, acted in ways that caused significant distress and in a manner perceived by man as unbecoming a priest, according to previous news reports by this news organization.
Specifics of those allegations were not given.
Cunningham was then removed from active ministry within the archdiocese in 2006.
Cunningham, who now resides in Rhode Island, did not respond to requests for comment.