Sex Abuse Victim Speaks Out on Archdiocese Settlement

Last week, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles reached a $660 million settlement with more than 500 victims of sexual abuse by clergy members. For one victim, the cost is calculated in something other than dollars and cents.

Frank Stoltze: Relationships – with friends, with bosses, with women – are hard for Udo Strutynski.

Udo Strutynski: When it comes to dating and intimate relationships, they last nanoseconds. I'm too messed up. Ya know, it doesn't stop me from breathing, and if I can get a good meal, I can get a good meal. Ya know, you do what you can.

Stoltze: The 64-year-old Highland Park resident lingered outside Department 20 of the Hill Street Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, where a judge signed off on the largest-ever settlement in the Catholic sex abuse scandal. He was one of the plaintiffs.

In 1950, when he was eight years old, Strutynski and his mother came to Los Angeles as refugees from post-World War II Vienna. When he was 15, attending Loyola High School, he met Father Tom Sullivan.

Strutynski: Somehow he got my phone number in the summer and called me and said, "Well, I know that where you live there is no swimming pool, and it's a hot day and I'll bet you like to go swimming, so would you like to come with me? I'm going to a place where you can swim."

Stoltze: Strutynski said Sullivan got him drunk and took his bathing suit off. He knew something was wrong, but his mother had always told him to obey priests.

Strutynski: I really didn't feel that I ought to trust him. But I didn't dare contradict him. And he said, "All I'm doing is, I want to check you out, I just want to see if you're healthy."

Stoltze: It went on for three years until he was a high school senior, and Sullivan found someone else.

Strutynski: I know people knew, because they told me, people who were teaching at the school, they said, "We know that Father S. has taken an interest in you, etcetera. I hope that there is nothing there that's upset you, because you would be more upset if you were to speak out."

Stoltze: Strutynski said he never told his mother. He was ashamed. She was deeply devout and fragile. He didn't want to upset her.

Strutynski finished at the top of his class and went on to study philosophy at Loyola Marymount University. But he had a hard time holding jobs – as a professor, as an executive editor at the University of California Press. He finally became a lawyer working with Chinese clients through an interpreter in Alhambra.

Father Sullivan died fifteen years ago, with no record of his abuse in archdiocesan files.

Strutynski: I've seen the file on my abuser and I have to say, if they wanted to make him a saint, they could use that file.

Stoltze: Four years ago, Strutynski took advantage of an extension of the statute of limitations and filed his lawsuit against the church. Now, he's more than a million dollars richer. His reaction?

Strutynski: I feel somehow like a lot of my nerve endings have been deadened. I see it's a good moment. But I'm not really feeling the intensity of success, the pleasure of success. I'm feeling more distant about it.

Stoltze: Twice a month for the last few years, Udo Strutynski has met with other survivors of Catholic clergy sexual abuse. He said he needs their support, and they need his. The settlement, he said, hasn't changed that.