Former L.A. County Pastor Arrested on Child Abuse Charges

A former Catholic priest from Los Angeles County has been arrested on charges that he sexually abused multiple children in the late 1990s. We applaud the police and prosecutors for charging this dangerous man and we hope that this news encourages others who may have been hurt by this clergyman or any other clerics to come forward.

According to reports, Fr. Christopher John Cunningham abused an 11 year old boy while he was assigned to Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Palmdale, CA between 1995 and 1997. During his time in Palmdale the priest also abused another child between 1996 and 1998. After Fr. Cunningham was reassigned to Saint Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Redondo Beach, he abused two more boys between 1998 and 2001. What is most disturbing about these crimes is that Catholic officials apparently were first warned about the cleric’s abusive nature in 1994. However, rather than remove Fr. Cunningham, Los Angeles Church leaders followed the Catholic playbook and shuffled him to other parishes, giving him access to new victims. In order to protect children, we believe that anyone who may have even had an inkling about those warnings in 1994 should be identified and removed from any position they hold today.

These depraved crimes could have been prevented if Catholic officials cared more about protecting children than protecting their reputations. Sadly, this pattern has been shown throughout the United States, and indeed the world. We hope that parents and parishioners today will know that if they have suspicions of a clergyman abusing children, they should go immediately to police and prosecutors, not the Church.

By our count, this is the seventh Catholic priest or staffer arrested in 2021 on abuse charges. This shows that the issue of clergy abuse is not a vestige of the past, as the Church often claims. Sadly, it is still ongoing today. Given the reality of delayed disclosure by child victims, it is likely that we will continue to learn more about crimes committed in the late 1990s and early 2000s as we move forward through this decade. 

We hope that cases like this will inspire parents and parishioners nationwide to ask pointed questions of the Catholic officials to whom they entrust their children, especially regarding current prevention plans and whether any prelates who enabled abuse in the past are still in leadership roles today.  

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

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


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