The following comes from a July 19 story in the Tidings, the Los Angeles archdiocese paper.
At the trial of Gregory Yusuke Shiga, accused of starting the Hacienda Heights’ conflagration that burnt St. John Vianney Church to the ground, Father Ricardo “Ricky” Viveros testified two hours for the prosecution.
He was the associate pastor who awoke in his rectory bedroom to the sound of shattering glass in the early hours of April 16, 2011. Looking out an upstairs window, he saw flames engulfing the California mission-style church that Cardinal James Francis McIntrye had dedicated in November 1969.
Earlier this month, Shiga, a 35-year-old parolee, was convicted of aggravated arson and four other related felony charges.
As the Tidings went to press, Shiga faced up to life in prison for using rolls of toilet paper soaked in a flammable liquid to destroy the church. The San Gabriel Valley landmark off the 60 Freeway had a travertine marble altar, an enamel in-laid tabernacle and a large stained glass window depicting St. John Vianney, the famed Cure of Ars.
While he was waiting in the hallway to testify during the two-week trial in Pomona, Father Viveros was taken aback when the arsonist’s sister approached him to ask, “Are you one of the priests at St. John Vianney?”
“Yes, I am,” he said.
Crying, the woman blurted out, “Father, I’m so sorry for what happened. Will you forgive me, us?”
At first the priest couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. It was as if the Gospel was playing out right there in the courthouse. “We’ve been praying for your family since the night of the fire,” he said. “We want your brother to get to heaven. That’s what we hope for. And we hope that your family finds peace with it, too, because I know you must also be suffering.”
He watched her face brighten with relief that the victims of her brother’s horrendous act felt more compassion than contempt towards her family.
Father Viveros was also in the courtroom with St. John Vianney’s pastor, Msgr. Tim Nichols — who was away that terrible night, recovering from a severe fall — and about 10 members of the suburban parish for closing arguments. He heard the accused, who represented himself, try to justify his actions by saying the Catholic Church had done “bad things.”
He also heard Deputy L.A. County District Attorney Renee Rose counter with the argument that the defendant, like many arsonists, according to social scientists, was really seeking attention. But law enforcement authorities never did pin down a clear motive….
Shiga, then 33, broke into St. John Vianney Church at 1345 Turnbull Canyon Road a little past midnight on that April Saturday. He placed rolls of flammable-soaked toilet paper throughout the church, used a device to saturate the walls and ceiling with an accelerant, and even opened windows to create a draft for the fire. The result was it turned into a roaring inferno in under 50 seconds.
Los Angeles County firefighters battled the stubborn blaze for more than six hours with flames reaching 100 feet high from the 20,000-plus square foot sanctuary. The fire also damaged the adjacent rectory. No one was injured, but the total damage came to about $9 million.
After the fire, Shiga bragged to an undercover officer that he was the one who had torched the church. But it took the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI a year to conduct a complex investigation before his arrest May 14, 2012. At the time, Shiga was on parole after pleading “no contest” to sexual battery of female students at Rio Hondo College in Whittier….
To read the entire story, click here.
Its sounds like this man has many issues. I will keep this parish in my prayers.
Even though this man used an excuse as to why he did it..this also can explain the many reasons people are angry with the church. Holy Archbishop once quoted this:
“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”
― Fulton J. Sheen
Good grief! if everyone one of us burned down or destroyed churches, synogogues, temples and buildings of organizations with which we did or do not agree, there would not be a structure left standing. People need to think before they do these types of crimes. Anyone walking by or any fireman could be killed, too, even people who agree with us on most things. I hope this man fully understands now how wrong he was.
We shouldnt discount diabolic influence on this man either.
You are certainly right about that possiblity, keithp.
I went to St. John Vianney’s web page. It appears that the progressives are going to reap the benefits from the destruction of their church. They will now build a “modern” church structure, instead of the traditional “mission style” structure which used to stand. The new church, once built, will be more akin to the protestant view of a “worship space”. What a tragedy indeed.
That is not good news Tracy. I hope that the locals protest or at least speak their concerns.
If you look at their website where they posted the parish meeting with parishioners, overwhelmingly, the parishioners want the tabernacle on the side. Most do however, still want to be able to see it as they enter the church. It sounds as if the architect planned on having it behind the altar, albeit in a room separated by glass doors. It seems that the new popular notion is that the tabernacle should be in a position where anyone can go up to it and place their hands on it in order to experience a closer intimacy with our Lord. The choir will definitely be up front, no choir loft.
Why do the parishioners get to decide where the tabernacle goes? Canon Law needs to prevail over all and respect for Jesus Christ needs to be observed by placing the Holy Tabernacle at the alter where He can be the focus of worship, not the choir of parishioners who will be on “stage” and the focus of the congregation! Please, enough already.
This individual (Gregory Shiga, the arsonist) clearly has criminal and perhaps psychological issues; but I think the real story here is his self-proclaimed motivation for this act (‘The Catholic Church has done” bad things.’) That phrase is what bears looking into: all the Inspector Javert-types in the media and the political world who have venomously assailed the Catholic Church legally and in the public forum on the (I suspect) sexual-abuse issue and effectively justified the motivations that a weakened soul like Shiga would then actualize in an arson. We see it in the George Zimmerman case where people (media, political thugs) are effectively urging individuals with limited self-control to lash out and commit acts of rage and violence. Former LA Mayor Tom Bradley did it after the Rodney King verdict, loudly declaiming, “There will be lawlessness in the streets!” As a result, thousands were attacked and beaten and their property destroyed. Shiga is merely a pawn in the game.
Fortunately, miraculously, no one was killed.
I too read this story in the Archdiocesan rag known as the Tidings. Modernist Catholic through and through. And no defense of the Catholic Church, btw, in the story when this nutball Shiga said he torched St. John Vianney because the Catholic Church did “bad things.” That’s right, no comments by the Tidings to this pathetic jerk when he said this. But, that IS the Tidings. About as far from the One True Church as a mildly heterodox paper can get. But there’ll be REAMS of stories about the constant doings @ LMU, usually all laudatory, no matter what the story is about or what the latest dissident priest, nun or official of LMU pontificates about. All seamless. All liberal radical Catholic all the time. It can really get depressing living through this twenty-first century what with the AVALANCHE OF HERETICS, UNHINGED FRINGE CATHOLICS IN POSITIONS OF POWER MAINTAINED SO MUCH OF THE TIME by the lamestream media and all. I need copious amounts of prayer and sacrifice to get through it all.And thank GOD for CalCath and so many like them who get to us the stories we NEED to hear. GOD BLESS ALL, AMRKRITE
Early on, the parish formed a “Rebuild Committee” and has hired an architect, liturgical consultant and acoustical engineer. With input from parishioners and priests, they’ve developed a master plan for the new church complex, which includes a “fellowship” garden.
A modernist disaster in the making. When you hear ‘liturgical consultant’… you know, its never going to look like a Church. You might as well have Pow Wow’s over there instead of Mass.