Los Angeles Catholic Priest Accused By Two Victims Of Child Sex Abuse

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Rev. Chris Cunningham

The Beach Reporter

“A second accuser has come forward alleging sexual abuse by former Rev. Chris Cunningham while he served at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Redondo Beach from 1998 to 2001.

The man, now 30, contacted attorney Anthony DeMarco after reading reports in The Beach Reporter about DeMarco’s representation of a different accuser at St. Lawrence during the same time period.

The man alleges when he was between ages 10 and 13 he was sexually molested by Cunningham both on and off church grounds. No further details were offered in court papers and DeMarco declined to make the accuser or witnesses available for an interview.

The latest accuser from St. Lawrence along with a new accuser from a West Covina parish were recently included in a new lawsuit against the former priest and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

DeMarco represents seven individuals from various parishes where Cunningham spent time with young boys. Cunningham was in his 20s at the time.

The attorney said he verified the story by the latest St. Lawrence accuser by speaking to additional witnesses to Cunningham’s behavior at the Redondo Beach parish.

“They observed things that were suspicious for abuse or observed conduct that made them very concerned themselves or observed that the two of them were alone together in circumstances that didn’t appear normal,” DeMarco said.

DeMarco, who has represented dozens of individuals who experienced sexual abuse, said it’s not unusual for a accuser to suppress memories and not tell anybody until being triggered by an event or a news story.

“There is oftentimes senses of guilt,” DeMarco said. “There’s confusion because, for the most part, as Cunningham did, they don’t use as much physical force as emotional manipulation.”

According to DeMarco, church officials knew about Cunningham’s behavior and instead of notifying the authorities shuffled him around to different assignments until 2004 when the young priest eventually resigned.

Based on documents released by the Archdiocese, several church leaders may have known about the abuse including Monsignor Michael Lenihan, a beloved community leader at St. Lawrence for 22 years before his death in 2011. Monsignor Richard Loomis, chief vicar to Cardinal Roger Mahony also had knowledge.

In one court case, an unnamed witness said Lenihan was notified about Cunningham’s behavior with young boys at St. Lawrence. After the notification, the witness noticed Cunningham’s demeanor was more guarded, indicating Lenihan had probably warned him of the report.

After leaving the priesthood, Cunningham went on to practice clinical psychology in Rhode Island, where he is still licensed. A spokesperson for the Rhode Island Health Department said that no disciplinary actions have been taken against the former priest. The number to his office, however, has been disconnected.

A church official at St. Lawrence could not be reached for comment about the latest allegation. Previously, Monsignor Paul Dotson said that he was sorry for any alleged wrongdoing. Dotson, who arrived at St. Lawrence in 2002, said he was not aware of any claims of abuse prior to these allegations.

“I’m sorry for anything that’s happened,” he told The Beach Reporter in November 2017. “I told people if they know anything, obviously they should say something. Our number one goal is to see that our children are protected on all levels, spiritually and physically. Everyone here is very much dedicated to that.”

A trial date in the case against Cunningham is still tentatively scheduled for June.”

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