Alleged victims of sexual assault by priests held a rally Thursday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles to urge those with similar experiences to come forward and pressure the Catholic Church to weed out abusive clergy.
About 40 people attended the demonstration, which started moments after the 9 a.m. Mass had ended. One woman carried a sign that read: "Baptized. Confirmed. Raped."
"We don't want this to happen to any other child," said Francisco Malo, addressing his remarks to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, who was not present.
Malo, 32, is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by five men against the archdiocese, alleging they were molested by the late Father Clinton Hagenbach.
The suit says the men were sexually assaulted by Hagenbach between 1968 and 1986 at four of the eight Los Angeles-area parishes where the priest served before he died in 1987.
Last year, the archdiocese paid $1.5 million to settle another sexual abuse claim against Hagenbach.
Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the archdiocese, would not comment on current cases, but said, "We do have solid and effective procedures in place to protect children and prevent abuse."
After a brief news conference outside the cathedral, the crowd and a dozen news reporters and cameramen swept past frantic security guards who tried to prevent them from entering the building.
Inside, the throng gathered around a chapel built in honor of those sexually abused by priests. The victims, their families and friends carried cardboard bricks with words such as "Deceit" and "Tears" written on them. The bricks were piled beneath a cross covered with photographs of children who were allegedly raped or molested.
"It feels good to have done that," said Steven Sanchez, 43, who alleged that he also was abused by Hagenbach. His older brother was the recipient of the $1.5-million settlement. "I'm tired of carrying the guilt and shame."