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"The victims," wrote Probation Officer Sandra Lewis-George in her presentence report, "were needy individuals who[m] Mr. Sherwood manipulated by providing basic street needs." The priest's own records indicate that he spent nearly $14,000 on his sexual conquests.

Reverend Sherwood's defenders told the judge that the priest never molested the children in his parish, as if buying and molesting indigent teenage hitchhikers is somehow less repugnant than fondling the faithful at Saint Benedict's. Can you imagine listening to such an outrageous alibi, if you were the parent of a runaway who ended up in Father Sherwood's Hyundai?

A church spokesman, Assistant Chancellor Michael Diskin, informed the court that Reverend Sherwood should not be viewed as a pedophile. He only molested kids when he could not find a suitable adult male for oral sex. "It is Diskin's belief," wrote Lewis-George in her presentence report, "that Father Sherwood's case is entirely different from those other priests who have molested in the past. He stated Father Sherwood's case involved situational incidents involving children and not a predisposition towards molesting minors." Apparently, the 22 kids Father Lan Sherwood violated are simply details in the eyes of Diskin and O'Brien. Edward, 14, was one of those details. One year after Bishop O'Brien returned Reverend Sherwood to Saint Benedict's, the priest drove to the church's rectory with his young passenger. Court documents not previously discussed in the press reveal the following:

On September 22, 1987, Father Sherwood videotaped Edward. As the youngster masturbates, you can hear the priest's voice on the videotape: "Do me one favor: stand up, turn sideways." Soon Father Sherwood is performing oral sex on the boy and masturbating himself. The priest tells the youth, "Big dick, Edward, for a 14-year-old boy." As the youngster ejaculates, the priest exclaims, "That's a lot," and, "Mucho leche." Father Sherwood told the probation officer that he was "unsure" if he psychologically damaged the minors that he molested. Still, church apologists ask us to remember that Edward was not a member of Saint Benedict's; furthermore, Reverend Sherwood and Assistant Chancellor Diskin agree that the priest would have preferred a young man in his 20s to the pubescent Edward.

From this unique perspective, Bishop O'Brien's ready tolerance of Father Lan's romps in adult bookstores is perfectly understandable. The fact is these clerics no longer have a moral or ethical compass. Child abuse and deviant acts are easy for them to rationalize.

The court was curious to see if the community at large shared the Bishop's enlightened and forgiving attitude. While Judge Hendrix was acknowledged as capable of digesting the confidential dialogue between Edward and Reverend Sherwood, the Bishop's spokesman decided that community response was simply too sensitive for the judge's review. "Mr. Diskin stated that the input the church received from the community was an emotional response from people and is considered privileged information," the probation officer's report said.

The Bishop's misplaced sense of discretion is merely the latest attempt at damage control. He is, in reality, afraid to give voice to the outrage expressed by his flock. Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien has been incompetent in rooting out the sick lechers who preach from his pulpits. During his lengthy confession to the Chandler police, Reverend Sherwood said he was recognized in adult bookstores by other priests who were also there for self-abuse. Has Bishop O'Brien asked Reverend Sherwood the identities of these wayward priests? According to Father Sherwood's attorney, Ted Jarvi, the answer is no. It is time for Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien to step down or be replaced. He is a disgrace to the office.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey