Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Steve Giannascoli, UT electric shop crew leader, remembers the first time he lit the Tower orange.

“I was in charge of flipping the switch,” Giannascoli said. “My boss gave me the cue right before the fireworks started, and that was memorable because I was very nervous. I worried what if it didn’t come on.”

Giannascoli, one of the people responsible for lighting the Tower after receiving notice of significant achievements, lit the Tower for the UT commencement speech four years ago.

Giannascoli said it simply takes a flip of the switch to turn on Tower lights after the Office of the President requests the occasion to recognize an accomplishment. He said the biggest Tower-lighting events of the year are UT Commencement and Gone to Texas. 

Neil Crump, plant management and construction services manager, runs the Tower-lighting team. He said preparing for large-scale events takes a significant amount of time. To get ready, he and his team coordinate count-offs and the raising and lowering Tower-window shades to form numerals. Crump said the Tower provides a good medium for showcasing the University’s achievements.

“It’s architecturally significant, and it symbolizes the University of Texas,” Crump said. “It’s their pride and joy.”

Giannascoli said lighting the Tower makes up a very small but significant portion of his job.

“Not everybody gets to light the Tower,” Giannascoli said. “My kids even think it’s cool. They tell the other kids that their dad lights the Tower. That’s probably the coolest part of my job.”

Giannascoli said the power used to light the Tower goes to monitors, projectors, equipment and lighting across campus when the orange lights aren’t shining. 

Mechanical engineering junior Jeremy Priest is the creator of the website Priest said in an email that he started the website after spending a frustrating amount of time trying to find out why the Tower was orange one day. He researches daily to find out why the Tower is lit, and then he updates his website. 

“Tower lightings are sometimes a little on the secretive side,” Priest said. “I manually edit the message each day that the Tower is lit, after finding the reason. Typically it’s found on the UT Know news website, the TexasSports news site, or a few others. At times I take to Twitter if I exhaust my usual resources.”

Priest said he launched the website to make it more convenient for students to find out UT achievements and what is happening on campus.

“The most rewarding thing that comes from my website is seeing the groups, whether athletic or academic, be recognized fully for their achievement,” Priest said. “With a view of my website, the entire student body can know that our very own Quidditch team won the World Cup, or that the Satellite Design Lab won 1st at a national competition.”

Priest said the tradition of lighting the Tower reinforces school pride and awareness. 

“It is a huge honor,” Priest said. “The students around campus knowing exactly why and for whom it is lit contributes to the prestige of that honor.”

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony and other top Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles officials maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark, according to church personnel files.

The confidential records filed in a lawsuit against the archdiocese disclose how the church handled abuse allegations for decades and also reveal dissent from a top Mahony aide who criticized his superiors for covering up allegations of abuse rather than protecting children.

Notes inked by Mahony demonstrate he was disturbed about abuse and sent problem priests for treatment, but there also were lengthy delays or oversights in some cases. Mahony received psychological reports on some priests that mentioned the possibility of many other victims, for example, but there is no indication that he or other church leaders investigated further.

“This is all intolerable and unacceptable to me,” Mahony wrote in 1991 on a file of the Rev. Lynn Caffoe, a priest suspected of locking boys in his room, videotaping their crotches and running up a $100 phone sex bill while with a boy. Caffoe was sent for therapy and removed from ministry, but Mahony didn’t move to defrock him until 2004, a decade after the archdiocese lost track of him.

“He is a fugitive from justice,” Mahony wrote to the Vatican’s Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI. “A check of the Social Security index discloses no report of his demise, so presumably he is alive somewhere.”

Caffoe died in 2009, six years after a newspaper reporter found him working at a homeless mission two blocks from a Salinas elementary school.

Mahony was out of town but issued a statement Monday apologizing for his mistakes and saying he had been “naive” about the lasting impacts of abuse. He has since met with 90 abuse victims privately and keeps an index card with each victim’s name in his private chapel, where he prays for them daily, he said. The card also includes the name of the molesting priest “lest I forget that real priests created this appalling harm.”

“It remains my daily and fervent prayer that God’s grace will flood the heart and soul of each victim, and that their life journey continues forward with ever greater healing,” Mahony wrote. “I am sorry.”

The church’s sex abuse policy was evolving and Mahony inherited some of the worst cases from his predecessor when he took over in 1985, J. Michael Hennigan, an archdiocese attorney, said in a separate series of emails. Priests were sent out of state for psychological treatment because they revealed more when their therapists were not required to report child abuse to law enforcement, as they were in California, he said.

At the time, clergy were not mandated sex abuse reporters and the church let the victims’ families decide whether to contact police, he added.

In at least one case, a priest victimized the children of illegal immigrants and threatened to have them deported if they told, the files show.

The files are attached to a motion seeking punitive damages in a case involving a Mexican priest sent to Los Angeles in 1987 after he was brutally beaten in his parish south of Mexico City.

When parents complained the Rev. Nicholas Aguilar Rivera molested in LA, church officials told the priest but waited two days to call police — allowing him to flee to Mexico, court papers allege. At least 26 children told police they were abused during his 10 months in Los Angeles. The now-defrocked priest is believed to be in Mexico and remains a fugitive.

The personnel files of 13 other clerics were attached to the motion to show a cover-up pattern, said attorney Anthony De Marco, who represents the 35-year-old plaintiff. In one instance, a memo to Mahony discusses sending a cleric to a therapist who also is an attorney so any incriminating evidence is protected from authorities by lawyer-client privilege. In another instance, archdiocese officials paid a secret salary to a priest exiled to the Philippines after he and six other clerics were accused of having sex with a teen and impregnating her.

The exhibits offer a glimpse at some 30,000 pages to be made public as part of a record-setting $660 million settlement. The archdiocese agreed to give the files to more than 500 victims of priest abuse in 2007, but a lawyer for about 30 of the priests fought to keep records sealed. A judge recently ordered the church to release them without blacking out the names of church higher-ups.

They echo similar releases from other dioceses nationwide that have shown how church leaders for decades shuffled problem priests from parish to parish, covered up reports of abuse and didn’t contact law enforcement. Top church officials in Missouri and Pennsylvania were criminally convicted last year for their roles in covering up abuse, more than a decade after the clergy sex abuse scandal began to unfold in Boston.

Mahony, who retired in 2011 after 26 years at the helm of the 4.3-million person archdiocese, has been particularly hounded by the case of the Rev. Michael Baker, who was sentenced to prison in 2007 for molestation — two decades after the priest confessed his abuse to Mahony.

Mahony noted the “extremely grave and serious situation” when he sent Baker for psychological treatment after the priest told him in 1986 that he had molested two brothers over seven years.

Baker returned to ministry the next year with a doctor’s recommendation that he be defrocked immediately if he spent any time with minors. Despite several documented instances of being alone with boys, the priest wasn’t removed from ministry until 2000. Around the same time, the church learned he was conducting baptisms without permission.

Church officials discussed announcing Baker’s abuse in churches where he had worked, but Mahony rejected the idea.

“We could open up another firestorm — and it takes us years to recover from those,” Mahony wrote in an Oct. 6, 2000, memo. “Is there no alternative to public announcements at all the Masses in 15 parishes??? Wow — that really scares the daylights out of me!!”

The aide, Msgr. Richard Loomis, noted his dismay over the matter when he retired in 2001 as vicar for clergy, the top church official who handled priestly discipline. In a memo to his successor, Loomis said Baker’s attorney disclosed the priest had at least 10 other victims.

“We’ve stepped back 20 years and are being driven by the need to cover-up and to keep the presbyteriate & public happily ignorant rather than the need to protect children,” Loomis wrote.

“The only other option is to sit and wait until another victim comes forward. Then someone else will end up owning the archdiocese of Los Angeles. The liability issues involved aside, I think that course of complete (in)action would be immoral and unethical.”

Mahony preferred targeted warnings at schools and youth groups rather than a warning read at Masses, Hennigan said. Parish announcements were made two years later.

Baker, who was paroled in 2011, is alleged to have molested 20 children in his 26-year career. He could not be reached for comment.

The files also show Mahony worked to keep molester priests out of state to avoid criminal and civil trouble.

One case involved the Msgr. Peter Garcia, a molester whom Mahony’s predecessor sent for treatment in New Mexico. Mahony kept Garcia there after a lawyer warned in 1986 that the archdiocese could face “severe civil liability” if he returned and reoffended. Garcia had admitted raping an 11-year-old boy and later told a psychologist he molested 15 to 17 young boys.

“If Monsignor Garcia were to reappear here within the archdiocese, we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors,” Mahony wrote to the director of Garcia’s New Mexico treatment program.

Mahony then sent Garcia to another treatment center, but Garcia returned to LA in 1988 after being removed from ministry. He then contacted a victim’s mother and asked to spend time with her younger son, according to a letter in the file.

Mahony moved to defrock him in 1989, and Garcia died a decade later.

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PHILADELPHIA — Jurors in a landmark church sex-abuse trial were presented with evidence Tuesday outlining the troubled clerical career of a priest who was convicted of child pornography charges yet remained in ministry for years despite similar and repeated complaints.

Prosecutors introduced decades of correspondence from mental health facilities, therapists and church officials regarding then-priest Edward DePaoli. The documents from the archdiocese’s secret archives outlined how DePaoli, after being convicted in federal court of child pornography charges in 1986, went through psychological treatment, rounds of therapy, and a half dozen church assignments over two decades before he was defrocked in 2005.

DePaoli is not a defendant in the trial, but prosecutors are using the testimony about him and others to build a case against Monsignor William Lynn, who was the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004 and entrusted with investigating complaints against priests. Lynn is the first Roman Catholic official in the U.S. charged with endangering children for allegedly keeping pedophile priests in parish work around children to protect the church’s reputation.

Also on trial is the Rev. James Brennan, charged with raping a 14-year-old boy in 1996. He and Lynn have both entered not guilty pleas.

The paper trail presented by prosecutors Tuesday began with DePaoli’s 1986 conviction, when he was assistant pastor at Holy Martyrs parish in Oreland just outside Philadelphia. He was found to have magazines, films and videotapes of underage boys. He received a one-year suspension.

Doctor reports in December 1986 warned that DePaoli “is likely to repeat his past behavior and to become progressively worse ... he could go beyond fantasy (regarding) his sexual fantasies towards children.” Instead, DePaoli was transferred out of the Philadelphia archdiocese to St. John Vianney Church in Colonia, N.J., for three years. In 1991, he returned to Philadelphia as associate pastor at Saint John the Baptist Church.

A 55-year-old woman testified Tuesday that she was fondled by DePaoli when she was a 12-year-old parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Doylestown. She said her family had recently immigrated and did not report it out of fear that they would not be believed. She said they met with Lynn and Bevilacqua in 2002 after learning the priest was still around children.

“My feeling was that they didn’t really care,” she said. “They were just going through the motions.”

BOGOTA, Colombia — Rev. Rafael Reatiga asked his parishioners to pray for him and gave the choirmaster a list of songs for his funeral just before he was found shot to death together with another Roman Catholic priest, a Colombian prosecutor said Tuesday.

Authorities initially suspected robbery when Reatiga's body was found along with that of Rev. Richard Piffano, 37, in a car in southern Bogota on Jan. 27, 2011.

But on Tuesday prosecutor Ana Patricia Larrota said investigators had determined that it was suicide by hitmen: the two priests hired gunmen to kill them after Reatiga discovered he had AIDS.

The prosecution's chief investigator Maritza Gonzalez said the two priests had originally planned to throw themselves off a cliff into a canyon north of Bogota but apparently lacked the nerve.

Printed on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 as: Bizarre murder-suicide leaves two Colombian priests dead

Candles lit up the walkway and the steps leading to the Tower as a priest performed traditional prayers Thursday on the Main Mall, and students celebrated an occasion that represents the triumph of righteousness over evil.

The Hindu Students Association sponsored the celebration in recognition of Diwali, or the Indian festival of lights. The event’s theme, “Welcome to Ayodhya,” is an expression and exploration of Hindu religious and cultural heritage, referring to the myth of Lord Rama and his victory over the demon Ravana.

“Diwali is the most auspicious occasion for Hindus,” said Apurva Batra, a mechanical engineering senior and core officer of HSA. “It is quite appropriate to say that holiday spirit during Diwali is analogous to that of Christmas.”

Diwali is a festival that is celebrated in Hindu households around the world with family gatherings that include candles, lanterns, fireworks and prayer to strengthen ties within families and with God. Gifts and sweets are also exchanged, and many Hindu families choose to clean their homes and buy new items for themselves at this time because Diwali also signifies the beginning of a new year in the Hindu calendar.

At the festival, a priest performed a religious ceremony called a “havan” around a fire in front of dozens of students and explained the significance of important Hindu scriptures. Each student was given a bag of rice and a candle, as an offering to the goddess Lakshmi.

“Fire is a symbol of knowledge and light, so we wanted everyone to have their own candle to give an offering,” said Kajal Mehta, a Plan II senior and co-chair for HSA Diwali. “Diwali is a joyous time to celebrate life and renewal.”

The festival delivers hope for a peaceful and prosperous new year. Candles, oil lanterns and fireworks illustrate the defeat of darkness.

“In diverse settings, it’s important to understand where we all come from and gain an appreciation for different cultures,” Batra said. “Since Hindus represent an appreciable fraction of the student body at UT, I feel that it is our goal as Hindus to educate others about our beliefs and festivities.”

A carnival included booths where students explained the myths of Diwali and passed out candy and other treats. Fireworks marked the end of the celebration.

“Usually, there is an offer to the Hindu goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, for good fortune for the coming year,” said Joel Brereton, associate professor of religious studies. “Often, there will be regional variations depending on dominant traditions in certain areas over another.”

Hindu families traditionally light diyas, small candles around their homes. Statues of Ravana are also constructed and burned throughout India with fireworks.

“Especially in a time of globalization, it’s important to understand other cultures and see how similar we all are,” Mehta said.