Sacred Heart tragedy cries out for healing

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 7, 1999

L’Observateur / August 7, 1999

The arrest of a popular coach and teacher at Sacred Heart Elementary in Norco is a tragedy, no matter what the outcome develops. For more than 20years, Brian Matherne worked at the school, influencing generations of young people through his work in the classroom, the gymnasium and the ball field. However, all over Norco, parents are questioning what happenedat the school, casting a negative image on the institution.

Sacred Heart has served the Norco community well, educating hundreds of students with Christian values and beliefs. It would be a tragedy forpeople to forget what the school, its faculty and the educational quality presented through the years.

We are, of course, in no position to comment as to whether the allegations, shocking as they were, are true or false. That is now a matterfor the courts to determine. Meanwhile, we strongly urge the public toexercise those same Christian beliefs in the weeks and months to come.

Don’t pre-judge the defendant. Don’t pre-judge or second-guess theArchdiocese. Don’t think badly of the school or its administration.On the face of it, second-guessing the Archdiocese appears easy. Whiletheir investigation, launched in February, was proceeding, additional crimes were allegedly occurring. Would it have been right and correct tonotify the Sheriff’s Office at the outset? Not being privy to the thought processes of the Archdiocese, it is tempting to second-guess what they should have done.

If innocent of the allegations, such an investigation would have certainly destroyed a fine career and the Archdiocese, in attempting to question the first claimant, met with problems and could not interview him directly.

Without such direct evidence, and without a child coming forth with similar claims, the Archdiocese hesitated to take action.

When a second allegation came from a different claimant, the Archdiocese suspended Matherne, and the rumors began to spread. Should theArchdiocese have, at that point, notified the Sheriff’s Office? Sheriff Greg Champagne, who was later directly contacted by the father of the first alleged victim and is a former assistant district attorney, said he was not satisfied with the chain of events as they developed.

The biggest questions concerning parents in the Norco area are what did the Archdiocese know, when did they know it and could they possibly have done more to prevent further instances? All those questions are unanswerable at this time.

If these crimes occurred, unspeakable in their nature, it would be a devastating tragedy to the Norco community. If the allegations are notproven and doubt is left behind, the memory will haunt Sacred Heart Elementary and the Norco community for many years to come.

If the allegations are proven true, the fallout will likely be harsh to the school and the Archdiocese.

What is vital and necessary for all concerned is a swift, sure and clear determination as to what, if anything, happened. We all need to know this,with no doubt remaining. The heartbreak already ravaging many Norcohomes cannot heal in any other way.

And, if Brian Matherne is determined to be entirely innocent, much soul- searching will be just as vital and necessary. If he is innocent, more thanapologies should be mandated.


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