Fugitive Canadian Friar Sent to Missouri
The Franciscan order moves the suspect in
a Canadian molestation case out of the Santa Barbara Mission
after a public outcry.
By William Lobdell - Times Staff Writer
September 8, 2004
A Catholic friar who fled molestation charges in Canada and
found refuge at the Santa Barbara Mission was moved Tuesday
to a rural church facility in Missouri, his superior said.
Father Alberic Smith, the superior at the Franciscan mission,
said Brother Gerald Chumik, 69, was transferred because of
pressure from victims' groups and others that began in July,
when the public learned that the friar was wanted in Canada
for allegedly molesting a boy three decades ago.
Chumik will live at an isolated Franciscan facility, similar
to a monastery, on 280 acres with about 20 other priests and
brothers, church officials said.
Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony lacks jurisdiction over
the Franciscan order, to which Chumik belongs, but he could
have ordered Chumik out of his archdiocese. A spokesman for
Mahony said the cardinal was satisfied that the Franciscans
were properly monitoring Chumik and that he was no danger
Prosecutors in Canada issued a warrant for Chumik's arrest
in 1990 on suspicion of molesting a boy over three years,
beginning when the victim was 12. They said, however, that
Canadian law prevented them from seeking his extradition from
the United States, where he was living. And Chumik's superiors
who say Chumik had admitted the alleged sexual abuse
to them said they can't order him to return and face
Chumik moved from Canada to California in the late 1970s.
He arrived at the Santa Barbara Mission two years ago after
working as a prison chaplain in Los Angeles and Fresno.
Smith, Chumik's superior, said he understood the anger of
some members of the public at having a fugitive facing child
molestation charges at the mission, but he thought that the
Franciscans had done an excellent job of keeping Chumik "under
house arrest" and away from children.
"We Franciscans need to be given credit for learning
a lot about [sexual abuse] now and learning to contain these
people," Smith said. "I consider [Brother Gerald]
as a success story, and yet people refuse to see that. I knew
that there was no danger."
Franciscan officials had repeatedly described Chumik's life
at the mission as "hell." They said his health was
so poor with cancer and advanced diabetes that
he was housed in a 25-bed infirmary with other ailing brothers
On Tuesday, Smith said that Chumik's cancer was in remission
and that the friar was allowed to take walks near two nearby
private schools long after school hours. Out of concern for
the public perception, that privilege was revoked once his
fugitive status became known.
Smith said he told officials at the schools about Chumik's
past when the friar moved to the mission. Neither of the schools
felt the friar was a threat, he said.
Related SNAP Press Release