St Joseph Catholic Church—Clergy Sexual Abuse in Hawthorne, CA

Church sexual abuse was seldom spoken of until recent years. Although kept secret for a long time, clergy sexual abuse ran rampant in California for many decades. Often the abuse occurred between a priest and children who worked or volunteered at the parish, including altar boys. 

One church in which clergy sexual abuse occurred for many years was St. Joseph Catholic Church in Hawthorne, California. Two priests by the names of Clinton Hagenbach and Carl Maurice Sutphin each spent several years assigned to the parish. If you believe you may have encountered either of these men at this church as a child, please contact the clergy sexual abuse attorneys at Boucher, LLP. We promise our consultation is confidential and free.

Father Clinton Hagenbach

Although it is alleged his abuse began decades before his assignment at St. Joseph’s, Clinton Hagenbach was assigned as a priest at St. Joseph’s in the mid-to-late 80’s. Throughout his priesthood, it is believed that he abused at least 18 boys from the late 1960’s through the late 1980’s. 

There are reports that he regularly had boys alone with him in the rectory and specifically his bedroom. He was known for maintaining a fraternity-house-like environment and groomed his victims by plying them with alcohol and providing pornography, ice cream, bicycles, camping trips, and go-cart riding.

Father Carl Maurice Sutphin

Father Carl Maurice Sutphin was another priest assigned to St. Joseph Catholic Church and was the subject of more than one church abuse claim. Sutphin was assigned to the church in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Many of the survivors of his abuse may be well into their 60’s or 70’s by now, but that does not discount their equal right to justice. 

I am a Survivor of Childhood Church Abuse, Can I Still File a Complaint?

Often childhood abuse survivors, especially sexual abuse survivors, repress the memories of what happened to them. Sometimes they never come forward to report the abuse, and sometimes they do many years later. This often results in survivors coming forward too late to pursue any legal recourse. 

In California, prior to 2019, survivors had to file a lawsuit either by the age of 26 or within three years of having realized their psychological injury was caused by the abuse, whichever came later.

However, on January 1, 2020, California expanded this statute of limitations.

California Child Victims Act

With the passage of the Child Victims Act, California expanded the time a childhood sexual abuse survivor has to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser or anyone else involved. With these changes, a survivor can file a lawsuit:

  • Up to the age of 40, or 
  • Within five years after they discover, or reasonably should have discovered, their psychological injury was caused by the childhood abuse, whichever occurs later. 

Importantly, this Act also executed a three-year grace period in which survivors can file a civil lawsuit for claims that otherwise would be beyond the statute of limitations. This means even if you are beyond the new statute of limitations you still have time to file a civil lawsuit. The three-year period began to run on January 1, 2020, and will expire on January 1, 2023. 

The Child Victims Act allows older adults who suffered childhood sexual abuse many years ago to still have time to hold the people or institutions responsible for their abuse accountable. 

Even if the perpetrator has long since died, survivors may still have claims against the Archdiocese. 

If you are a survivor over the age of 40 or it has been longer than five years since you realized your psychological injury was caused by the abuse at the hands of Father Hagenbach or Sutphin, you are not out of time to recover compensation. However, you must act fast.

Boucher LLP: Holding Wrongdoers Accountable

At Boucher LLP we believe in securing justice for our clients, no matter how much time has passed. We take on the most complex, sensitive, and traumatic cases to advocate for those that have been severely wronged. If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, particularly clergy sexual abuse involving St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Hawthorne, CA, do not wait another day to come forward with your story. You deserve justice! These claims are time sensitive so please contact us immediately to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our compassionate and experienced church sexual abuse attorneys.