Four priests named in sweeping sex abuse lawsuit


Four Catholic priests who served parishioners in Newhall have been named in a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse stretching back decades, and involving more than 300 alleged offenders.

The “nuisance lawsuit” was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against the California Catholic Conference on Oct. 2, claiming California bishops covered up child sexual abuse.

The four priests named in the suit were each, at one time, assigned to Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Lyons Avenue. They include:

  • Monsignor Roderic Guerrini, served at OLPH 1981-89
  • Monsignor Richard Martini, served at OLPH 2010-14
  • Monsignor George Michael Miller, served at OLPH 1964-67, died in June 2018
  • Monsignor John Ruhl, served at OLPH in 1971

“These people are named in the (120-page) report that we published at part of the public nuisance action,” Patrick Wall, spokesman for Jeff Anderson and Associates, the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, said Thursday.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys representing Thomas Emens who was a boy when the alleged offenses occurred.


It names as defendants: the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archdiocese of San Francisco; Diocese of Orange; Diocese of San Bernardino; Diocese of San Diego; Diocese of Fresno; Diocese of Sacramento; Diocese of Oakland; Diocese of San Jose; Diocese of Monterey; Diocese of Santa Rosa; and the Archdiocese of Chicago where the perpetrator worked before being sent to California.

Attorneys released a 120-page report on clerical sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles containing information on more than 300 clerical offenders and how the Archdiocese allowed over 35 perpetrators to flee the jurisdiction after reports of abuse arose.

The lawyers demanded that all California bishops immediately release the names and documented histories on all clerical offenders in each diocese secretly kept in their possession.

On Thursday, the Catholic diocese in San Jose, identified 15 former priests who were accused of sexual abuse, Wall said.

A statement issued in response to the lawsuit by the California Catholic Conference reads:

“We have not had more than a brief opportunity to review the lawsuit filed this morning by Mr. Anderson, but two things stand out.

Public sources

“First, it appears that all of the information provided in the news conference this morning came from public sources and has been available for years; and, second, that none of the information provided describes the positive steps taken by California dioceses over the past 15 years to protect children and young people from abuse.

“In 2003, all dioceses in California began implementing the reforms called out in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People approved by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops the year before.

“Every diocese in California has instituted fingerprinting and background checks for priests, staff and any volunteers working around children and young people.

All of them offer Safe Environment programs to train students and staff in identifying and preventing abuse.

Zero tolerance

Every diocese has adopted a ‘zero tolerance’ standard to make sure no one with a credible accusation of abusing children is allowed to function as a priest and all dioceses have an Independent Review Board, primarily consisting of lay persons, to advise bishops on whether or not an accused priest would be allowed to return to ministry.

“Over the course of the last 15 years, millions of students in Catholic Schools and religious education have gone through training, along with hundreds of thousands of staff and volunteers.  Tens of thousands more have been fingerprinted and background checked.

“These measures have been effective.  Allegations of abuse have been rare since 2003, responded to and uniformly reported, but we know we can never be complacent.  The twelve dioceses of California will never waver in their commitment to protect young people.”

The pastor named in the suit, accused in SCV’s oldest cases was Miller.

“He was one of the top-10 perpetrators at OLPH,” Wall said.

Martini transferred

The pastor most recently assigned to OLPH, now named in the suit was Martini.

In November 2013, Martini — one of The Signal’s Top 51 Most Influential people of Santa Clarita for two consecutive years —was transferred by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles from the OLPH  to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Carpinteria.

Martini became pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Lyons, near Orchard Village, in 2010.

In the three years prior to his transfer, Martini saw significant changes unfold at the church principally the newly renovated pastoral center seen as the first step in the grand plan to restore and expand one of Santa Clarita’s oldest churches.

During his time at the local church, Martini has overseen its annual barbecue which raised more than $2 million for the expansion project.

Among his many accolades, Martini received the Papal Honor of being named Chaplain to His Holiness in 2010.

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