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Ex-priest alleges abuse by elder priest

April 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church has another unexpected alleged victim: A former priest who says he was molested as a child by a priest, announced a lawsuit against the alleged offender and a Roman Catholic bishop. Inside Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church in La Habra is where the acts allegedly occurred.

"You know, he was in his rectory one afternoon, and he had pornography," said Ben Rodriguez, the alleged abuse victim.

Forty-five-year-old Ben Rodriguez was 15 years old then. He accuses Father Gordon J. Pillon of sexually abusing him for several years.

Rodriguez says Father Gordon Pillon, who is believed to be out of the country now, was a master manipulator and became a father figure to Rodriguez when his parents were going through a divorce.

"He said that he obtained pornography by someone who confessed it and wanted to get rid of it and gave it to him," said Rodriguez. "That's the story he told me. Would you like to watch it with me?"

Rodriguez filed a lawsuit Monday morning against Pillon and the Diocese of Orange. He says he remained silent for years because he didn't think what allegedly happened to him was abuse.

"I knew that I was doing something wrong," said Rodriguez. "I never thought of myself as a victim of anything."

Joelle Casteix, of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says that reaction is not uncommon among abuse victims, and she praised Rodriguez for finally coming out.

"When you look at Ben's story, you see this tremendous strength and the fact that he came forward when he did, I believe is amazing," said Casteix.

Ironically, Rodriguez says it was Pillon who led him into the priesthood, where he subsequently served for 16 years in the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois. He says he was forced out after he spoke out about his alleged abuse.

"I love being a priest. I love ministry," said Rodriguez. "I love working with people and I loved helping people, but I always knew deep down inside there was something inside of me that was unresolved."

Rodriguez says he is still paying a steep price, even now.

"Father Gordon was like a cult leader, and all those who ever met him would probably say the same thing," said Rodriguez. "And he did influence me and he isolated me from my family, and with his influence and guidance and spiritual direction, I stopped speaking with my family for about 25 years."

Eyewitness News placed several calls to the Diocese of Orange seeking comment but those call have gone unreturned.


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