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Today we tech. And the story behind the play.

June 2, 2012

We open Altarcations in six days.

Here’s a story.

I graduated Damien High School in La Verne in 1976. Graduation as a Spartan was threatened, however, by a decision I made in my senior year as editor of the school paper, The Laconian.

While I suspect we had no descendants of ancient Laconia or its capital city Sparta, we did have among our all boys’ Catholic student body several agnostics, atheists and other non-Catholics. I had come from Lutheran schools.

A fellow student – agnostic or atheist, I don’t recall – scribed an op-ed piece that protested the school’s policy of everyone attending a weekly mass during school hours, regardless of his religious point of view. Neil, however, submitted it without a title so I stuck “Mass-O-Chist” above the piece.

These were the days when we laid out a paper by hand. It was sent out Friday afternoon and printed at the Claremont Courier. 

On Monday morning, the principal summoned Neil and I, and a guy named Jack, to his office. Why Jack was fingered we never could figure out even with his flair for all things anti….

Father O’Loghlen was furious.

How dare Neil mock the faith? How dare Jack do whatever Jack did? And how could I, as editor, allow such “blasphemy” to be placed in the paper? “You mean the piece itself?” I asked. “And the title of it,” he sneered.

Six hundred copies of The Laconian stood in piles behind his desk. No student to my knowledge saw one.

“I titled it.”

His cheeks turned red. He removed us from the newspaper staff, threatened our very graduation, and ordered us to a home room where we would write a lengthy paper on journalistic integrity and its responsibilities.

My nervous mother was beside herself.

I took the assignment seriously and interviewed a long time newspaper reporter, Jack Burson, of Pomona’s now defunct Progress Bulletin. My teacher scored it a D-minus, accusing me of using it as a sounding board to air my grievances against Damien High School. That was not my aim.

Thirty-five years later I exchanged emails with Joelle Casteix, this region’s director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. We were familiar with each other because of her work and my public radio job.

Turns out Father Martin P. O’Loghlen had his own issues with integrity. Ten years before he threatened to expel us from high school he was having sex, while a priest who taught at another local school, with a teenage girl. One of his students.

The story appeared in the New York Times in early 2011. Father O’Loghlen tried to contact the woman in the mid 1990s. She complained to his superiors and O’Loghlen admitted to them this relationship, agreed to drop his efforts to contact her, undertook extensive therapy, and remained a priest in active ministry.

Records became available, all of which I read: correspondence between the diocese and the treatment center; correspondence withRome; a lengthy handwritten letter O’Loghlen wrote to the woman, never sent.

Fodder, I thought.

Religion has never been an easy subject for me. While I played piano for a Catholic church in the late 1980s and served more recently as a deacon at a Presbyterian church, I’ve never felt anchored at one. For this I do not blame anyone and certainly not Martin O’Loghlen who has since been removed from his pastoral role in San Dimas.

I do, however, protest abuse, abusers, and those who shield them. This is the subject within Altarcations.

-Steve Julian

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