18 Feb 19
East Bay Times
Click HERE if you’re unable to view the gallery on your mobile device.
In a move aimed at reassuring parishioners amid renewed scrutiny of the Roman Catholic Church, the Diocese of Oakland named 45 priests Monday who had been credibly accused over the years of sexually abusing children within its bounds.
The Oakland diocese, which spans Alameda and Contra Costa counties, is the second in the Bay Area to take the extraordinary step, following a similar move by the Diocese of San Jose in October. Dioceses in Stockton and San Diego also have publicly named accused priests, and the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which once encompassed Oakland and San Jose, is considering doing so as well.
Bishop Michael Barber called the release an “Act of Contrition” in a Monday letter to parishioners.
“These are monstrous crimes, committed by priests who are supposed to model virtue and grace, not sin and harm,” Barber wrote. “My first reaction in seeing the list of names of priests who have abused, is one of deep shame. … I hope this will help bring healing to those who have suffered.”
The list includes 20 diocesan priests accused of abusing 174 children. It also includes three priests from other dioceses and 22 priests, deacons or brothers affiliated with religious orders like the Salesians and Franciscans who had worked within the Oakland diocese. Unlike the San Jose diocese, Oakland did not describe the allegations against the named clergy.
Victim advocates said five of those named had not been identified before — diocesan priests Thomas Duong Binh-Minh, Hilary Cooper, Patrick Finnegan and Daniel McLeod, plus Virendra Coutts, a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco religious order.
Others have been known for years, like Monsignor Vincent Breen, who was accused of molesting at least eight girls during his time at Fremont’s Holy Ghost parish, resulting in lawsuits and criminal investigations. He died in 1986.
Of the diocesan priests identified, just six are still alive. One, Ronald J. Lagasse, was excommunicated in 2008, and another, Stephen M. Kiesle, was laicized in 1987. Both are no longer affiliated with the diocese. Four others — Binh-Minh, Cooper, Jeffrey N. Acebo and Francisco Tarcisio Lanuevo — are still alive but removed from ministry since at least 2002 and directed to “lives of prayer and penance” with “minimal sustenance” from the diocese.
None of those still living was immediately available for comment.
Victim advocates said that while they applaud more disclosure, the diocese’s list fell short. They noted that web sites like bishopaccountability.org and law firms that have represented abuse victims list more accused priests affiliated with the diocese, and said the diocese should have named these priests years ago.
“They knew most of this but they didn’t tell anybody,” said Dan McNevin of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, who was molested as an altar boy by the Rev. James Clark, one of those named Monday, at Corpus Christi parish in Fremont. “They robbed families of 15 years of knowledge that would have allowed them a leg up on healing and finally getting some closure knowing what these men had done.”
Diocesan spokeswoman Helen Osman said that others may be using different criteria for determining credible accusations, but that anyone with information about priests not on the diocese’s list “should report to law enforcement and, if they are willing, contact the Diocese.”
Barber said in his letter that there “has been no credible incident of abuse” involving a child by a deacon or priest in the diocese since 1988, and there are no active priests or deacons in the diocese who have been credibly accused of abusing children.
The list, however, did not include the Rev. Alex Castillo, whom the diocese announced Jan. 31 was put on administrative leave and removed from priestly duties after an accusation of “inappropriate conduct with a minor” that is being investigated by Oakland police.
Castillo, who came to the U.S. from Costa Rica in 2008, was ordained in 2011 and served at Saint Anthony Parish in Oakley and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Fremont. In October 2017, Barber appointed him director of the Department of Faith Formation and Evangelization, overseeing adult ministry.
The diocese explained that Castillo was left out because the allegation remains under investigation, and Barber said the “living list” of names “will be updated as needed.” The diocese also revealed that although state law requires church officials to immediately report suspected child abuse, it learned of the allegation against Castillo three days before reporting it to police.
“I examined the reports, made sure the data was accurate because of the implications, and took the appropriate actions,” said Stephen Wilcox, the diocese’s chancellor, who is in charge of handling accusations. He said he’s now met twice with Oakland police to discuss both the evidence surrounding the case, as well as his own actions responding to the accusation against Castillo.
“When that accusation becomes credible,” Wilcox said, “then he’ll be added to the list.”
The list includes only clergy accused of abusing children under 18 within the jurisdiction of the Oakland diocese, which includes 84 parishes and 54 schools in Alameda and Contra Costa counties serving some 500,000 Roman Catholics. The diocese noted that the determination that an accusation was credible does not necessarily mean a crime was committed.
[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”curated” curated_ids=”5954519,5773785,5772632,5770132,5761293″]Monday’s disclosure is the latest in the Oakland diocese’s long odyssey of confronting the abuse scandal that has plagued the Roman Catholic church now for decades.
The church has come under renewed scrutiny since the 2015 “Spotlight” film about the Boston Globe’s 2002 expose of priest abuse and Pennsylvania authorities’ report last summer detailing decades of molestation and cover-ups among several dioceses. Other states have since launched investigations of their own. On Saturday the Vatican announced it has defrocked the former Cardinal and Archbishop of Washington, D.C., Theodore McCarrick, over sexual abuse.
In San Jose, Bishop Patrick McGrath and Coadjutor Bishop Oscar Cantu on Sunday applauded that move, saying it “signals the Church’s resolve to hold bishops accountable for abuse or mismanagement.”
The Oakland diocese said in 2004 that 29 diocesan priests had been accused of sexual misconduct since 1950, and that 24 of those allegations were deemed credible, three of them before the diocese cleaved from San Francisco in 1962.
The Oakland diocese named the following diocesan priests as credibly accused of child abuse:
Jeffrey N. Acebo, Thomas Duong Binh-Minh, Vincent I. Breen, Donald E. Broderson, Kenneth J. Cabral, James A. Clark, Edmond G. Cloutier, Hilary Cooper, Pearse P. Donovan, Joseph Ferreira, Patrick Finnegan, George J. Francis, Robert E. Freitas, Stephen M. Kiesle, Ronald J. Lagasse, Francisco Tarcisio Lanuevo, Daniel McLeod, Robert F. Ponciroli, Arthur A. Ribeiro and Gary B. Tollner.
The named priests and deacons from other dioceses were:
Roberto Bravo, Mario Cimmarrusti, Virendra Coutts, Bernard Dabbene, J. Patrick Foley, Jerold Lindner, Gary M. Luiz, Ruben Martinez, James McSorley, William Odom-Green, Cornelius Pedraig Leehan, Richard Presenti, Alexander Pinter, Anthony Slane, Robert Van Handel, Stephen Whelan and Gordon Wilcox.
The named religious brothers were:
Salvatore Billante, Donald Eagleson, Joseph “Jesse” Gutierrez, John Moriarty, Lawrence O’Brien, Raimond Rose, Francis Verngren and Terrence Wong.