Column: “Why does Mater Dei protect bullies?” »A school and the Diocese of Orange County have a lot to answer


A high school student is assaulted. Their innocence is shattered; their life has changed forever.

School officials learn of the incident. They do worse than nothing; they hide it and even laugh at it. Their superiors look away. Both facilitators and abusers are protected; the survivor is ostracized. And when the critics cry foul, the institution plays the victim card.

Another day at Mater Dei high school, a jewel of Catholic education in the diocese of Orange.

His powerful football team is in the national news right now, and not just because the Monarchs are set to win their fourth national championship in five seasons. A lawsuit filed last month against Mater Dei and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange says a former football player suffered a broken nose, traumatic brain injury and permanent scarring in a February hazing ritual called “Bodies” which amounted to a beating sanctioned by the school.

The lawsuit says the team’s adult staff did nothing to stop the victim’s assault by a much larger player, initially ignored his injuries and lied to Santa Ana police when they investigated the incident. He also alleges that when the boy’s father confronted football head coach Bruce Rollinson about what happened to his son, the preschool legend cracked: “If I had a hundred dollars for every time that those kids were playing Bodies… I’d be a millionaire. “

The victim was transferred to another school but soon discovered that he could not immediately participate in sports because Mater Dei officials had put a disciplinary mark on his transfer papers. Meanwhile, Rollinson – who was accused in 1989 of suffocating a track and field coach in front of college students and ultimately made a strong case to disturb the peace over her actions after a suspended jury trial ended. – preparing his team to play next week for the California State Soccer Championship.

The allegations have put the sports world in disgust, especially since there seems to be a good chance that there will be no disciplinary action against the Monarchs. Mater Dei president Walter E. Jenkins just published a letter that basically says the school is moving forward but promises to do better in the future; Diocese of Orange, Bishop Kevin Vann did not say a word. Through a spokesperson – a graduate of Mater Dei, no less – both declined to comment further due to “the ongoing civil action and involvement of minors.”

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against the alleged assailant, even though a Santa Ana Police investigator recommended charging the anonymous student with a felony battery. Even the California Interscholastic Federation, which governs high school sports in the state, has said it will not sanction Mater Dei for what happened, arguing it has no jurisdiction over the school – little matters that Mater Dei plays in a CIF title match on December. 11.

To those who remain in disbelief by all of this, I say, forget it, Jake. It’s Mater Dei.

I covered school for years in my previous work, focusing on the many civil cases of sexual abuse that arose from school. We’re easily talking about over a dozen known multi-million dollar sexual abuse settlements since 2002 involving at least 10 former employees accused of Mater Dei – counselors, teachers, staff, administrators and more – with almost no discipline for anyone. is involved.

The latest incident is not a case of sexual abuse, but it carries a hallmark of how the Diocese of Orange handled the controversy involving minors in Mater Dei: institutional silence and obscuration.

Take the case of former principal Michael Harris. Several male students alleged that he repeatedly assaulted them in his office in the 1970s and 1980s before leaving to open Santa Margarita High, where Harris later resigned following further charges that the Diocese of ‘Orange had kept it a secret for years. Harris has never been convicted of any crime, but on his own he has already cost the Diocese of Orange more than $ 7 million in sexual abuse settlements – and another former Mater Dei student is on trial In progress who names Harris as their attacker.

The Diocese of Orange also remained silent in 1989, when Mater Dei officials allowed then conductor Thomas Hodgman to quit quietly after admitting to sexually abusing a student. The principal at the time, John Weling, did not say anything to the parents at the time, but did joke to diocesan leaders in a memo that “we never get bored at [Mater Dei]! ”

The same silence reoccurred in the mid-1990s with Jeff Andrade, a male basketball assistant coach whom Mater Dei administrators suspected of having an inappropriate relationship with female students. When asked Andrade about such rumors, legendary head coach Gary McKnight burst into the meeting and told Andrade to stand up and say nothing more until one arrived. of them.

Mater Dei ended up firing Andrade, who was never convicted of a crime even though he admitted in a statement that he had sex with a minor student. Years later, he and Mater Dei school president Patrick Murphy said in their depositions that Andrade had returned to campus to help organize fundraisers for sports teams with McKnight’s blessing. , who continues to train at Mater Dei.

None of the above has ever been donated by Mater Dei or the Diocese of Orange; they have only come to light through legal proceedings and the media.

In 2007, current principal Frances Clare told parents in a letter after a new round of sexual abuse lawsuits that the school had “appropriately informed and cooperated with the legal authorities” about two alleged abusers in the 1990s. But when I called the Child and Family Services Division of the Orange County Social Services Agency at the time – which mandatory reporters are supposed to contact whenever they discover child abuse – they have stated that they had no record of any discussions with Mater Dei.

Student abuse at Mater Dei is not just a few rogue individuals over the decades; it’s institutional. And no one knows it better than John manly, who has repeatedly sued his alma mater on behalf of clients for alleged adult sexual abuse and currently has “several” pending lawsuits against Mater Dei. He has always insisted that any sexual abuse settlement he concludes with the Catholic Diocese involves the publication of depositions and documents that show what really happened in relation to what the prelates claimed to be. has been.

“The funny thing about it is that everyone expects them to do something,” he said of the scandal currently shaking Mater De football. “But they did nothing about the rape of children. Do they really think they are going to do something about hazing? “

For a minute I thought they would.

I really thought that Bishop Vann had changed the Diocese of Orange, which has ultimate jurisdiction over Mater Dei, for the better. His predecessor, Bishop Tod D. Brown, presided over a diocese just as bad as the Archdioceses of Los Angeles and Boston when it came to protecting pedophile priests and ignoring their victims.

Fortunately, Orange County Catholics didn’t see this with Vann. But it’s a failure of accountability if he allows Mater Dei football to get away with it in this case.

For his part, Manly doesn’t think anything will happen to Rollinson, his former sophomore history teacher.

“If you are a winner, that’s all that matters,” he said. “The thought is, ‘We’re going to protect the organization, we’re going to protect the slot machine. If a child is violently assaulted, he doesn’t care.

But what really angers Manly about the current hazing affair is the way Mater Dei let the Monarchs football team keep playing – and let Rollinson coach – as if nothing had happened. ‘was.

“Why does Mater Dei protect bullies?” Manly asked. “This young man who hurt the student, what did he learn? “Force does good. That you can get away with anything.


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