Female Janitor Sues the Archdiocese of LA; SNAP Has Questions about the Response

For immediate release: June 8, 2022

A former janitor at a Catholic Church in Maywood, California, is pursuing a lawsuit for damages against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In her complaint, the woman, who then worked as a custodian at the church, accused an associate pastor of groping her in the rectory and trying to coerce her into his bed on July 31, 2019, according to a suit that was filed in 2020. SNAP applauds this woman for coming forward and sharing her story but is extremely troubled by the facts reported in this case.

The associate pastor, Fr. Primitivo Gonzalez, was apparently removed from his position at St. Rose of Lima Church in August of 2019, within 24 hours of the custodian's complaint to the Archdiocese. The assault was also said to have been reported by the Archdiocese to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Apparently, Fr. Gonzalez admitted his wrongdoing, was removed from ministry and sent to live in Northern California with his brother. While we commend the Archdiocese for quickly removing the priest from ministry and reporting the abuse to law enforcement, we are not satisfied that it did all that it should have done in this case.

Specifically, while the Archdiocese claimed that there were no earlier complaints against Fr. Gonzalez, we find it hard to believe that the priest simply woke up on July 31, 2019, and decided to assault the female janitor. Instead, we suspect others like her,  desperately needing their jobs and very likely devout Catholics, were simply too afraid and ashamed to come forward. We wonder if the Archdiocese did outreach to the others who may have been in harm's way and were also in need of help? It certainly would have been the right and decent thing to do.

We are also not clear why Fr. Gonzalez was not criminally prosecuted for assault. In a similar case in Northern California, the Catholic cleric accused of assaulting female employees and a volunteer, Rev. Varghese “George” Alengadan, was charged with one count of misdemeanor sexual battery. Unfortunately, he fled the country before his arraignment. We hope that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles did not interfere in the prosecution of this case. Even if Fr. Gonzalez had already been diagnosed with dementia from which he died in December of 2020, the priest was still a dangerous man.

CONTACT: Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Dan McNevin, SNAP Treasurer ([email protected], 415-341-6417), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267- 261-0578), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for more than 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org.)

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