Former priest charged with sexually abusing children near LA
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former Catholic priest has been charged with sexually assaulting four children while serving at two Los Angeles area churches two decades ago, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Christopher John Cunningham faces 12 counts of committing lewd acts upon a minor, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
It wasn’t immediately known if Cunningham, 58, has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Prosecutors allege Cunningham sexually assaulted an 11-year-old boy on two occasions between 1995 and 1997 while he was an associate pastor at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Palmdale.
He also molested another boy at the 11-year-old’s home between 1996 and 1998, according to prosecutors.
After Cunningham was reassigned to Saint Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Redondo Beach, he allegedly abused a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old boy repeatedly between 1998 and 2001, the District Attorney’s statement said.
“The victims were innocent children who have spent most of their lives with the trauma caused by the abuse alleged in this case,” District Attorney George Gascón said in the statement. “My office is committed to holding accountable anyone who abuses and takes advantage of our children, especially when they hold a position of trust.”
The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said in a statement that the announcement of Cunningham’s arrest was the first time church officials were made aware of the criminal allegations against the former priest. The Archdiocese said it’s cooperating with investigators.
“Fr. Christopher Cunningham has been out of ministry since 2005 after the Archdiocese received and investigated allegations of boundary violations, which are unrelated to the current criminal matter,” the Archdiocese said.
“The Archdiocese was first informed through a media inquiry of an allegation of sexual abuse involving a minor in May 2015 when a civil lawsuit was filed, ten years after he had been removed from ministry. The Archdiocese was not aware of any information concerning these allegations prior to being advised of the civil lawsuit,” the statement said.
The charges against Cunningham were filed earlier this month. An arraignment has yet to be scheduled.