Retired priest Michael Wempe cried during his 2006 molestation trial as witness after witness testified how his sexual abuse of them had damaged them for life.
But files released last week reveal his efforts and those of church officials to shield Wempe from the law.
Wempe was hustled to Foundation House in Jemez Springs, N.M., in 1987, after a new pastor at St. Sebastian's Church in Santa Paula learned he'd been sharing his bed in the rectory with a young boy, and had taken two brothers, ages 12 and
"I want to affirm that no one, to my knowledge, has made any accusations. But the potential for danger appears to me to be very great," the pastor wrote in a letter to Thomas Curry, the vicar of clergy for the archdiocese.
The therapists at Foundation House provided progress reports to the Catholic Church, most of which are redacted in the archdiocese personnel files released last week.
However, a note from Curry recounts one conversation, in which he was told that Wempe was in a relationship with a 12-year-old as a "surrogate father but also sex partner."
"Discussed aiding victims and the problem that might cause," Curry wrote. "Mike (Wempe) said "People here (at Foundation House) would
In a letter to then-Archbishop Roger Mahony written six months later, Curry reports that Wempe is making "significant progress" in his therapy.
Curry also raises Wempe's concerns that his misconduct with boys could subject him to criminal prosecution.
"We discussed the possibility of his consulting a lawyer who would refer him to therapy, thus putting the reports under the protection of privilege or of finding a lawyer who is also a psychiatrist," Curry wrote. "I will investigate both possibilities."
After he completed therapy, Wempe was assigned to a ministry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
He resigned under pressure in 2002, however, shortly before resigning two Orange County men filed suit, claiming Wempe had molested them as young boys, from about 1974-85, while Wempe was assigned to St. Jude Catholic Church in Westlake Village and St. Mary Catholic Church in Palmdale.
In 2006, he was convicted of molesting a boy while serving as a chaplain at Cedars-Sinai, and sentenced to three years in prison.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting prosecution on older claims resulted in the dismissal of 42 additional counts involving 13 other boys in the 1970s and '80s.
The newly released documents contain a confidential child abuse report, dated December 2007, relating to an incident that took place in 1969 or '70.
The victim told church officials he went to Wempe for help because his parents were getting a divorce.
"He said, 'Let's go talk,' and we went for a ride in his car to the drive-in theater. He slapped me around then had ... sex with me.
"I later told the police and a teacher," he said. "But no one ever did anything."