The Damning Documents

Related story: The King of County Pedophiles For years, Catholic Diocese of Orange Bishop Tod D. Brown ignored the pleas of sex-abuse victims who wanted His Eminence to release priest personnel files. The victims claimed those documents would prove church leaders knew about the pedophiles under their watch for decades but did nothing or—worse—shuffled them around. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge finally ordered Brown to release the personnel files in May, and the accusations of cover-up became fact.

At more than 1,000 pages, the personnel file on Father Eleuterio Ramos is the largest of any of the files released for a child-molesting Orange County priest. Page after page reveals how almost every major leader in the Orange diocese—from Bishop William Johnson to Bishop Michael Driscoll to Bishop John T. Steinbock to Bishop Norman McFarland to Bishop Jaime Soto—had a part in the Ramos scandal. Here are the highlights:

•Undated memo written by Michael Driscoll—then vicar general for the Orange diocese, now bishop of the Diocese of Boise—notes “obscene words—gestures. Bad judgment. Immature acts. Offered boys drinks (alcoholic). Boys out late at night.”

•Undated, anonymous memo states, “Movies, drinking. Boys from Placentia offered drink.”

•Sept. 13, 1979, letter by a teacher at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Santa Ana to Orange Bishop William Johnson about “a confidential matter of grave concern to our Parish and our School” involving Ramos.

•Nov. 11, 1979, letter by a teacher at Immaculate Heart of Mary to Bishop William Johnson of a “very grave school matter which we would like to discuss with you” involving Ramos. On that letter in Driscoll's writing is “boys taken to rectory. Some drinking. Boys to movies not approved for children—children [illegible].”

•Jan. 31, 1980, letter Ramos sent out to friends while away on sick leave for alcoholism. Ramos discloses that “numerous tests that we undergo also show many other related illnesses including my own lunacy . . . no comments!”

•April 26, 1982, psychological report by Dr. Klaus D. Hoppe of the Hacker Clinic. Hoppe writes to Bishop Johnson, “After a period of reluctance and resistance, Father Ramos was able and willing to work through his emotional difficulties of a sexual nature. During the last year, he was capable of controlling his impulses completely.”

•Sept. 21, 1982, memo by Driscoll: “Junior-Rectory Boy. 3 months ago. Motel. Mags-homosexual. Boy run—called folks. Lg. suitcase. Wrestling.”

•Undated log by Driscoll from this time (shown here). A 16-year-old boy claimed that several years earlier, Ramos had mailed him copies of Playboy, Hustlerand gay magazines, and took pictures of altar boys reading Playboy. After Ramos moved to another parish, Driscoll writes, Ramos continued to call the victim and once sent him a picture of a naked lady. During a convention away from Orange County, Ramos “unbuttoned the shirt” and “pulled string on pants” of the boy. Ramos asked the boy if he was “scared” and said he had a “suitcase full of magazines.” The same log also shows that, at a later date, Ramos took the same boy to a drive-in movie, held the teen's hand and “tr[ied] to touch crotch.” The teen resisted Ramos' advances until Ramos finally kicked him out of his car and left him on the streets at 2 in the morning.

•Log from July 24 to July 26, 1985, by Driscoll. Discloses that Ramos admitted he had “slipped” with a 17-year-old boy at St. Anthony Claret in Anaheim, where Ramos was now pastor. Driscoll had dinner with Hoppe and told the psychologist of the problem. Ramos reassured Driscoll by revealing that the boy's parents were “not going legal.” Driscoll places Ramos on “vacation.”

•Another log regarding same incident, this one by John T. Steinbock, then auxiliary bishop of Orange, currently the bishop of Fresno. Steinbock recommends that Driscoll place Ramos on “vacation immediately” to Mission San Luis Rey in San Luis Obispo. Steinbock also warns Driscoll that the “possibility of past lapses and this knowledge gives us responsibility under liability to remove [Ramos].” “This is the only lapse to own knowledge,” Driscoll responds.

•Sept. 24, 1985, letter by Driscoll to Bishop Emilio Berlie of the Diocese of Tijuana, written after Berlie accepted Ramos. Details all the incidents with Ramos listed above. “Bishop Johnson has told Father Ramos that if there should be any further incidences of his problem that he, as bishop, would have no hesitation in suspending him from his priestly duties,” Driscoll assures Berlie. “We deeply regret the problems he has and hope that he may now completely come to grips with facing these problems and overcoming them.”

•Oct. 13, 1985, letter by Ramos from Tijuana to Bishop Johnson. Ramos thanks Johnson for this “final opportunity” and shares that his fellow Tijuana priests “are aware of my alcoholism, diabetes, mental and emotional problems, and in particular my present and other past involvement with the boys.”

•June 30, 1993, memo by Orange Bishop Jaime Soto to Chancellor John Urell about a conversation Soto had with Bishop Emilio Berlie of the Diocese of Tijuana. “I told him that there have been new allegations regarding Fr. Al Ramos and that we have reason to believe that there is a substance of truth to what has been presented.” According to Soto, Berlie wanted to keep Ramos and told Soto the American Roman Catholic Church was “kneeling, bending under the attacks that have been leveled against us.” “I tried to explain to him that this matter was largely out of our control,” Soto writes. “We have already taken steps to respond but the media has exploited these cases for their own agenda.” Soto also writes he believed Ramos “continues to hold in his possession indecent photos of some of the young people he victimized.”

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