Black Collar Crime

church abuse. scandal. AP

During a daytime patrol of a rundown cemetery in Benicia, Calif., a police officer was shocked to see his parish priest, Father Jerome Henson, kneeling in front of a boy the officer once coached. The officer just drove away, but according to his report, filed hours later, the priest was committing "lewd acts with the 13-year old."

Even though another priest told police he "had suspicions about Father Henson from past incidents" police never looked into them and no arrest was made. The church quickly transferred Henson to a parish in Reno, Nev.

The boy, John Jacobs, is now 34 and lives an hour north of that cemetery. He's Inmate P-33419 at a state prison -- where on-camera interviews are forbidden.

"I couldn't talk to my parents about it, I couldn't talk to people in the church about it, they were the ones that covered it up. The guilt and shame, I thought it was my fault," Jacobs said in a phone interview.

CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports a psychologist who examined him said his substance abuse and the start "of his law violations occurred in tandem with his victimization by sexual molestation." In a suit to be filed this week Jacobs claims Henson repeatedly sexually abused and blackmailed him into silence.

Through his attorney, Father Jerome Henson says the allegations are totally untrue and he's never molested anyone anywhere. His lawyer also points out, that at the time, the 13-year-old boy told police nothing happened.

"I was just a kid. I was scared. I thought I was going to go to jail. I didn't know what to do," said Jacobs.

Henson later returned to California, where he became parish priest and where he ran a youth ministry. Because of the allegations, in November of last year, Henson was removed. No new accusations against him have surfaced.

The church has, at times, blocked police investigations by withholding information about serious crimes.

"No child should have to remember her first kiss coming from an adult priest," said Nancy Sloan.

Sloan, now in her late-thirties, says high-ranking clergy in Stockton, Calif. protected a priest, Father Oliver O'Grady, after he molested her when she was 11.

"They told me not to worry about it, that there had never been any other allegations or complaints. He was the virtue of priesthood. I was an isolated incident," said Sloan.

But nearly a decade later, in 1984, O'Grady, admitted to fondling a nine-year-old boy. The Stockton Diocese told police that was "an isolated incident" but they knew it wasn't and kept the truth hidden in a secret file.

In it, a written confession and letters of apology to Sloan's family. A few weeks later, the bishop of Stockton transferred O'Grady to a new parish. It took another 10 years and many more victims before O'Grady was finally convicted of child molestation.

"They lied. They guilted. They stonewalled. They told the police in Stockton that they would take care of it. They promoted him. They moved him. They gave him new feeding grounds," said Sloan.

The bishop who transferred O'Grady was Roger Mahony -- now Cardinal of the Los Angeles Archdiocese and one of the cardinals summoned to Rome by the pope.

  • chris oregan

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