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Former Altar Boy Sues L.A. Cardinal

Oct 1, 2002 | AP

A former altar boy from Westlake Village who claims he was sexually abused by his parish priest sued the priest, the Catholic archdiocese and Cardinal Roger Mahony on Monday.

Richard J. Kirby, 39, said the Rev. Michael Wempe abused him over a period of about 18 months in the late 1970s. Wempe, who served at several parishes in and around Ventura County from 1969 to 1987, was one of seven priests dismissed earlier this year amid allegations of sexual improprieties.

Wempe, who could not be located for comment, has not been charged with a crime.

Kirby, who lives in Virginia, said Wempe was an associate pastor at St. Jude Church in Westlake Village when they met. He said the abuse happened after Wempe was moved to another location.

In June, Kirby and Mahony co-authored a commentary published in the Los Angeles Times about how the church should help abuse victims.

Kirby said he expected Mahony to offer him that help, but instead, he said, Mahony turned him over to the church's lawyers, who labeled him an adversary.

"I am deeply hurt and feel crushed by the cardinal and his people now treating me as an enemy of the church," Kirby said during a press conference outside a Los Angeles courthouse.

Church officials called Kirby's allegations "irresponsible and unfounded."

"Mr. Kirby's personal pursuit of a $2.3 million payday and not any action by the archdiocese changed a hopeful dialogue into an adversarial relationship," said archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg.

Kirby said he had hoped to reach a monetary settlement with the church but declined to reveal a dollar amount. His lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

He met with Mahony at a bishops conference in June and "the cardinal talked about setting things right," he said. The two agreed to co-author the commentary, entitled "Healing the Victims and Healing the Church," that was published on June 24.

Also Monday, an ex-Catholic priest arrested in Alaska waived extradition and agreed to be returned to Los Angeles, said Sgt. John Pasquariello of the Los Angeles Police Department.

George Neville Rucker, 82, faces 23 felony counts of committing lewd acts with children under the age of 14.

He was one of four Southern California priests arrested last week in the first batch of criminal cases brought in Los Angeles and Orange counties since the nationwide Roman Catholic church sex abuse scandal came to light in January.

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