Santa Rosa Diocese names 39 clergymen as accused sex abusers

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Are you an abuse survivor?

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)

San Francisco Bay Area
Contact: Melanie Sakoda
Email: melanie.sakoda@gmail.com
Phone: 925-708-6175

The Diocese of Santa Rosa has offered to meet and provide assistance to any victim of clergy abuse. Call or contact Victim Assistance Coordinator Julie Sparacio at 707-566-3308, or P.O. Box 1297, Santa Rosa, California 95402.

Contact SNAP at www.snapnetwork.org or 1-877-762-7432.

___________

LIST OF NAMES: Here are the 39 names released by the Santa Rosa Diocese on Saturday, which lists priests and deacons with ties to the diocese, who church leaders say committed child sexual abuse or were credibly accused of such crimes.

Names previously released:

  • Patrick Gleeson*
  • Austin Peter Keegan
  • Don Kimball*
  • Vincent O’Neill*
  • John Rogers*
  • Anthony J. Ross
  • Gary Timmons

Names part of public record (media disclosures, legal, internet, etc.):

  • Carmelo Baltazar*
  • Anthony Bolger*
  • David Brusky*
  • John Crews
  • Francis (John) Ford*
  • Patrick A. Hannon*
  • Michael Emmet Kelly
  • Patrick McCabe
  • John A. Meenan*
  • Francisco Javier Ochoa*
  • Ted Oswald*
  • Thomas Parker
  • Bernie Ward
  • Ron Wiecek

Not previously named, credibly accused:

  • Francis E. Neville*
  • Xavier Pallathuparambil*
  • Alfredo Sobalvarro
  • James Walsh*

Named due to ties to SR Diocese but claims in other areas:

  • Joseph Alzugaray*
  • Edward F. Beutner*
  • Kevin Dunne
  • Don Eagleson*
  • Don D. Flickinger
  • J. Patrick Foley*
  • Ruben Garcia*
  • Bruce Maxwell*
  • John Moriarty
  • Mark O'Leary
  • Daniel Polizzi*
  • Celestine Quinlan*
  • Francis Verngren*
  • Vincent A. Yzermans*

Not named, but "have received much notoriety" and are "still under review""

  • George Patrick Ziemann*
  • John Clayton Nienstedt
*Asterisks denote those known to be dead, according to the news release.

Santa Rosa Bishop Robert F. Vasa on Saturday revealed the names of 39 priests and deacons who church leaders say committed child sexual abuse or were credibly accused of such crimes, a disclosure that marks the most comprehensive acknowledgment of the decades-long scope of the clergy abuse scandal for the local Catholic church.

The list made public to about 140,000 members of the Santa Rosa Diocese as well as the media includes many names long known from high-profile molestation cases as well as several previously unknown, most of them accused of offenses committed several decades ago.

At least 25 of those on the list are deceased, including three of four men named for the first time who had claims raised against them as part of their service for the diocese, which spanned from the early 1960s until at least the early 1980s.

None of those named are serving in public ministry in the diocese, Vasa said in the North Coast Catholic newspaper, published Saturday along with a long-planned news release.

Fourteen people on the list served in the local diocese at some point but had accusations lodged against them elsewhere, Vasa said.

But the bishop said a search of the records indicated about 25 priests were accused of abusing about 100 children during their service to the diocese from its founding in 1962 to the present. In the church newspaper, Vasa called it “a shocking number” that, in part, drove him to make the list public.

He noted that four priests — Gary Timmons, Don Kimball, Austin Peter Keegan and Francisco Xavier Ochoa — were responsible for 63 known victims. Kimball and Ochoa are deceased.

“My primary goal in releasing the names of accused priests and deacons who served in Santa Rosa in this public fashion is to give to all the victims of clerical sexual abuse the assurance that they have been heard and that the Church is very much concerned for their well-being and healing,” Vasa wrote.

“It is my deepest prayer and hope that this release of names in a consolidated fashion says to any of you who are victims, we have heard you, we believe you, we affirm you in your trauma and we want to help with a healing process.”

Critics said the bishop’s disclosure should have provided more detail on the history of the North Coast diocese, which had been characterized in the past as an intentional refuge for abusive priests from other areas.

An attorney deeply involved in combating sex abuse in the church said the disclosure was a result of growing pressure from civil society and continued legal claims by victims.

One survivor, who spoke on condition he not be identified, said it appeared to him releasing the list was “the bare minimum.”

He said the disclosure should include legal papers revealing the details of multiple abuse cases, which have long been covered by confidentiality agreements. The diocese could redact the names of victims for their protection and “open up the testimony and the depositions of all the priests, bishops and anyone else involved in these heinous crimes,” the survivor said.

“My belief is that they would never expose all the years of denial, painful character assassinations and legal stonewalling that occurred ... throughout the process,” he said.

Are you an abuse survivor?

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)

San Francisco Bay Area
Contact: Melanie Sakoda
Email: melanie.sakoda@gmail.com
Phone: 925-708-6175

The Diocese of Santa Rosa has offered to meet and provide assistance to any victim of clergy abuse. Call or contact Victim Assistance Coordinator Julie Sparacio at 707-566-3308, or P.O. Box 1297, Santa Rosa, California 95402.

Contact SNAP at www.snapnetwork.org or 1-877-762-7432.

___________

LIST OF NAMES: Here are the 39 names released by the Santa Rosa Diocese on Saturday, which lists priests and deacons with ties to the diocese, who church leaders say committed child sexual abuse or were credibly accused of such crimes.

Names previously released:

  • Patrick Gleeson*
  • Austin Peter Keegan
  • Don Kimball*
  • Vincent O’Neill*
  • John Rogers*
  • Anthony J. Ross
  • Gary Timmons

Names part of public record (media disclosures, legal, internet, etc.):

  • Carmelo Baltazar*
  • Anthony Bolger*
  • David Brusky*
  • John Crews
  • Francis (John) Ford*
  • Patrick A. Hannon*
  • Michael Emmet Kelly
  • Patrick McCabe
  • John A. Meenan*
  • Francisco Javier Ochoa*
  • Ted Oswald*
  • Thomas Parker
  • Bernie Ward
  • Ron Wiecek

Not previously named, credibly accused:

  • Francis E. Neville*
  • Xavier Pallathuparambil*
  • Alfredo Sobalvarro
  • James Walsh*

Named due to ties to SR Diocese but claims in other areas:

  • Joseph Alzugaray*
  • Edward F. Beutner*
  • Kevin Dunne
  • Don Eagleson*
  • Don D. Flickinger
  • J. Patrick Foley*
  • Ruben Garcia*
  • Bruce Maxwell*
  • John Moriarty
  • Mark O'Leary
  • Daniel Polizzi*
  • Celestine Quinlan*
  • Francis Verngren*
  • Vincent A. Yzermans*

Not named, but "have received much notoriety" and are "still under review""

  • George Patrick Ziemann*
  • John Clayton Nienstedt
*Asterisks denote those known to be dead, according to the news release.

The list of 39 clergymen includes the well-known names of predatory priests whose behavior came to light beginning in the mid-1990s during a rash of civil and criminal cases that exposed the sprawling North Coast diocese as a focal point of the Catholic abuse scandal several years before widespread misdeeds erupted nationwide.

The diocese has since paid out more than $29 million in legal settlements to childhood victims of at least 10 priests since the 1990s, about $12 million of it covered by insurance, Vasa said. The Santa Rosa Diocese includes 40 parishes from Petaluma to the Oregon border.

“Sadly, we have had sexual abuse events as late as 2006 and 2008 and I find that most troubling,” Vasa said in a statement accompanying the disclosure, which was also published in Spanish. “However, the vast majority of the abuses occurred decades ago. This is not complete proof that the Church is making progress in eliminating this great tragedy, but I find this to be a sign of hope.”

In his homily delivered Saturday at the Cathedral of St. Eugene, Rev. Frank Epperson urged about 200 parishioners to take home a copy of the diocesan newspaper. The “vast majority” of the crimes, he noted, are “decades old.”

Epperson also spoke of the “evil times” threatening the church and asked parishioners to recite the Prayer to Saint Michael Archangel, a step recommended by Pope Francis in September.

Victoria Lessler of Santa Rosa, a parishioner, applauded the bishop’s action.

“It’s been a terrible scandal,” she said outside the cathedral. “I hope this will be the end of it.”

Helen Jennings of Santa Rosa said she considered it “high time there was transparency in the Catholic Church.”

“This is a form of reparation to victims and to all Catholics,” she said. “It’s the church going to confession for all of us.”

Jim Haberstam of Santa Rosa, a eucharistic minister at St. Eugene’s, said it “should be emphasized” that many abuse cases date back three or four decades. “We’re not talking about an ongoing, current level of abuse,” he said.

In training for his post, which involves ministering to homebound Catholics, Haberstam said he was fingerprinted and trained to avoid “any appearance of abuse or opportunity for abuse.”

The diocese’s history includes several criminal cases, including Timmons, a former priest at St. Eugene’s who was convicted of child molestation after several victims filed suit over sex abuse that took place at a church retreat, Camp St. Michael in Mendocino County, and at other locations.

Kimball was sentenced to seven years in prison for molesting a 13-year-old girl, though his conviction was thrown out because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned a California law allowing prosecution of long-ago sex crimes.

Keegan, who was facing 102 molestation counts after his extradition from Mexico, was freed by the same 2003 high court ruling. He was believed to have molested as many as 80 children before he was stripped of his duties with the church in 1982. He was last known to be living in Oceanside.

Walnut Creek attorney Michael Meadows, who handled clergy abuse cases for 30 years before retiring last year, represented multiple victims of Timmons, Keegan and Ochoa, a Sonoma priest believed to have abused at least five boys.

Meadows said Keegan “of all the Northern California people, was the worst. Hands down.”

Ochoa admitted sexual misconduct to then-Bishop Daniel Walsh in 2006 but fled to Mexico in the few days before authorities were notified. A federal warrant was later issued for his arrest on 10 felony child abuse counts but he never returned to the United States and died in Mexico three years later.

Walsh accepted diversion to a counseling program in lieu of facing misdemeanor charges for the delay. He left the diocese in 2011.

“My sense is the number of priests is way beyond anything that I knew of,” said Meadows, who took sworn statements from church leaders and learned of long-held secrets that “they all knew.”

Melanie Sakoda, national secretary and Bay Area spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said she found seven names on the list she had never seen associated with clergy abuse before. She was pleased, as well, to see members of Catholic orders, which have been omitted by other dioceses, on Vasa’s list.

“I think it was more complete than I suspected it was going to be,” she said.

She said SNAP still believes Santa Rosa and other dioceses should also be accounting for nuns, teachers and others besides priests who serve within the world of the Catholic church and its schools and institutions.

“This is a good list,” said attorney Michael Reck, whose Minnesota-based law firm, Jeff Anderson and Associates, has taken on the Catholic Church nationally and sued every diocese in California.

But “the focus on dead perpetrators,” he said, “leaves out the hierarchy that covered this up, that moved them around.”

It’s also notable, he said, that the diocese declined to list former Santa Rosa Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann as well as former St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt, who spent two years as an independent contractor at the Napa Institute. His tenure in Minnesota included civil and criminal charges related to his handling of clergy abuse charges as well as a misconduct claim that involved him undressing in front of two minors caught with him in a rainstorm during a youth rally in Germany.

Nienstedt responded to that allegation in Vasa’s news release, calling the allegation unfounded.

“I do not know the motive behind the allegation,” he wrote. “But I know the allegation to be false.”

Ziemann, driven from office by scandal related to a two-year relationship with another priest who claimed he was coerced, also was accused of sex abuse in civil suits by three Southern California men for alleged conduct during his service in the Los Angeles archdiocese.

Vasa said Ziemann and Nienstedt were removed from the list because they’re posts are directly under the authority of the Vatican.

“They’re still protecting the bishops about their own allegations, and they’re still protecting the bishops about the cover-ups,” Reck said.

The longest serving Santa Rosa bishop, Mark Hurley, ran the diocese from 1969 to 1987 and admitted destroying many of his personnel records upon his retirement.

But Vasa said last week that he found many records from that era in church possession as well others as in the public domain, and it’s not clear what Hurley did get rid of.

“Generally, we don’t destroy documents,” he added.

The new disclosure comes in the wake of explosive revelations contained in a Pennsylvania grand jury report last year that renewed the drumbeat for greater scrutiny of church leadership. Catholic dioceses in San Jose and Monterey last year released their lists of clergymen accused or known to have committed sex abuse or misconduct.

Vasa said he is seeking transparency on behalf of the diocese in an effort to aid the healing of victims and to “acknowledge that the evil and sinful actions of these priests have adversely affected us all.”

“The injury done to others is not in any way comparable to the impact on specific individuals or families but there is harm nonetheless,” Vasa wrote. “The perverse actions of these priests and bishops have shaken the confidence of the People of God in every parish in our country. These predatory priests and bishops have caused immense damage to the priesthood and they have dishonored every good and holy priest striving to do God’s will.”

Vasa has said he spent weeks combing the internet and aggregated lists for names and information that might allow him to issue the fullest possible report to his parishioners, in collaboration with members of the Diocesan Review Board established in 2002.

While he had expressed some reservations last fall about publicly naming accused priests whose guilt had never been proven, he ultimately chose to give the benefit of the doubt to the accusers in an effort to show support and aid healing, he wrote. He also released substantially more names than he had said would be the case.

The list does not include the names of any accused or known abusers at the church-affiliated Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma Valley, which Vasa said has its own personnel, screening and reporting protocols. The youth center narrowly avoided a state shutdown last year stemming from a criminal abuse case against its now-imprisoned former clinical director and numerous civil lawsuits.

Sakoda, with SNAP, said she hopes that anyone who was abused within the diocese and who doesn’t see their abuser’s name will call police, the California attorney general, the press, SNAP, someone to make sure the names and their claims get aired.

Others need to come forward, she said, “so people start thinking about their parents, their siblings, their children, so we can start keeping them all safe in the future.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

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