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More Reports of Secrecy in the Oakland Diocese

Lyle J. Arnold, Jr.

In November of 2007, at the U.S. Bishops annual meeting in Baltimore, a report was made on the findings of John Jay College's investigation into the "causes and context" of priestly abuse scandals. The report emphasized that "the occurrence of sexual abuse in the Church mirrored broader patterns of abuse in U.S. society” Sexual abuse by priests would be merely part of "a broad cultural pattern rather than something instinctively Catholic." (1)

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Archbishop Curtiss: "an unfortunate media problem"
Put more simply, these statements mean that as society goes, so goes the Church. Progressivists love this kind of talk. Archbishop Elden Curtiss of Omaha applauded these statements because they debunked an “unfortunate media problem” and “a myth, reinforced over time, that there's something unique about a Catholic priest, about a Bishop and his staff” when it comes to sexual abuse. (2)

I sustain that neither the John Jay statements nor the words of Archbishop Curtiss are sound. What happens in society should not justify what happens in the Church. The Mystical Bride of Christ is not meant to reflect the world as from a mirror, but to be the world's model and leader. Bishop Wilton Gregory, the former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, speaking about the priestly scandals, commented: "the scandal is history." (3) The progressivist mentality wants the scandals consigned to history, without entering into the deep cause and consequences of them. This mentality would be highly critical of a recent newspaper account of the scandals in one diocese.

Oakland updates on the scandal

In 2005 the Diocese of Oakland paid a $56.4 million settlement to 56 childhood sexual-abuse survivors, capping three years of litigation and four months of intense negotiation. The scandal, however, has re-surfaced with reports of more priests accused of crimes whose names were systematically hidden by Church authorities.

The first of a series of four stories on priestly sexual abuse was published on March 30, 2008 in the Contra Costa Times of northern California. Its topic covered priestly scandals, and the incompetent mismanagement that followed in the Oakland Diocese.

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Bishop Vigneron apologizes for only 12 of the 64 accused priests
The initial installment was a long commentary, embodying three full pages. It accused Oakland's current Bishop Allen Vigneron of diluting the scope and seriousness of the sexual abuses by only naming 12 priests in his apologies to parishioners, whereas the actual number of the accused was 64. Once again, it was reporters, not Church authorities who revealed these accused priests, whose names surfaced only after MediaNews reporters examined tens of thousands of pages of Court and Church records, police reports and other documents and conducted numerous interviews. (4)

Here are some of the findings that come forward:
  • At least two accused diocesan priests and 19 members of religious orders still serve at Church facilities in the Bay area.

  • A former chancellor and vicar general, a former school superintendent and two former deans were accused of abuse.

  • Accused clergy members served in at least 61 of the 86 parishes and all seven of the diocesan boys’ high schools. So much for the notion being spread that the clergy sexual abuse problem only involves a tiny fraction of priests…

Many accused clergy members were ordered to get treatment, and then shuffled to multiple parishes for decades. They were not reported to law enforcement or removed from ministry. What is clear is that the Diocesee officials did not release complete information about accused priests and the long history of abuse.

To accentuate their claim of diocesan dishonesty, a kind of rogues gallery of these 64 accused clerics with their exposed villainies covered an entire page, 36 of them with mug-shots. An editorial commentary on the series stated:

"Catholic officials' standard operating practice was to order predatory clergy to get treatment, then shuffle them to other parishes, leaving them free to victimize other children. Church officials went to great lengths to cover up for and protect rogue priests. They almost never went to the authorities to report abuse. And the few times that parents and neighbors made complaints about molestation to the police, no one was ever prosecuted.

"In a 2005 court deposition, retired Bishop of Oakland John Cummins, then head of the Oakland Diocese, said that Church officials had ‘good relations' with area district attorneys, ‘a kind of mutual collaboration, which I think was a very healthy relationship’” (5).

Interpreted, this preposterous statement by Bishop Cummins means that criminal clerics - as well as the criminal superiors who covered for them - escaped punishment for egregious crimes. Cummins spoke about his relationship with the police and court officials as a “very healthy” one. Certainly it was advantageous for him and his priests to escape civil justice. Certainly it was not advantageous for the victims of abuse and their families.

Bishops Cummins and Zieman, two examples

In 1977, Bishop Cummins took over the Diocesee from Bishop Floyd Begin, known today for his extreme secrecy regarding clergy molestation complaints. The second article in the Contra Costa Times series exposes Bishop Begin’s cover-up of proven molester Fr. Robert Ponciroli, whom he transferred from one parish to another for years. Other accused priests he promoted to administrative positions. No one knows how many priest sex abuse complaints he received. His successor Bishop Cummins, who continued the practice of secrecy and covering for priests during his long office from 1977 to 2003, reports the Contra Costa Times, “was happier not knowing.” (6)

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Bishop Cummins at the Dallas Conference promises openness, but keeps records closed
A quick look at Bishop Cummins' past indicates his train of thought. In 1971 he led the California Conference of Bishops at the state capital. He later admitted that the California Bishops worked behind the scenes to help pass the consenting adults bill known as AB489 in 1975, legalizing adulterous cohabitation, oral sex, and sodomy between consenting adults (7).

The Catholic Church teaches that the sin of sodomy cries out to heaven for vengeance, and makes no qualification or mitigation about the age of the perpetrator. Thus, Bishop Cummins and his fellow Bishops violated their duties of office by lending their support to this legislation. How else to make sense out of the fact that Catholic Prelates used their political muscle for the passage of legislation diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching? The escape clause that specified these sexual acts were only for "consulting adults" is a sacrilegious mockery of Catholic good sense, which rejects such actions in all cases.

Pari passu, it doesn't take a St. Thomas Aquinas to realize that an adult sodomite priest will be attracted to teenage boys, who became a legion of victims in the scandals. This ecclesial mindset is a violation of all past Catholic morality. Yet if the California Bishops wanted legalized sodomy between consenting adults, they surely got it in the notorious Santa Rosa case.

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Archbishop Levada helped cover for Bishop Ziemann
Indeed, in April of 1999 Bishop Patrick Ziemann of Santa Rosa resigned after admitting sexual misconduct between himself and his long-time lover Fr. Jorge Hume Salas. He left the Diocese with a staggering debt of $30 million, a case of "mismanagement" added to his crime of sodomy. (8)

It was then Archbishop William J. Levada (later promoted to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome and made a cardinal) who presided over Ziemann's skipping away from Santa Rosa with criminal impunity after Church officials refused to fully cooperate with authorities.. For "punishment," Ziemann was sent to the Holy Trinity Monastery" in the Arizona desert that doubles as a tourist attraction. Commenting on the “Bishop’s bad boy,” Ron Russell notes:

“Ziemann, 61, is fit, tanned, and in good spirits. A fixture on the artsy party circuit in nearby Tucson, he's even spotted occasionally at a karaoke bar... Church officials haven't ruled out the possibility that the disgraced Bishop may someday get another crack at heading another diocese" (9).

Pedophilia interchangeable with homosexuality

Abusive priests form circles of their own. The scandals still unfolding before us today have deep roots in a systemic poison that infiltrated the Church. For example, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, called the most powerful ecclesiastical figure in America in the latter half of the 20th century, helped set the stage for these scandals. A commentator of the weekly Wanderer said this about Bernardin’s legacy:

"The current scandals rocking the Catholic Church today are his legacy: the infestation of the American Hierarchy with perverts and abusers; the homosexualization of seminaries and the clergy; the bare-knuckled legal tactics employed on abuse victims; the creator and staffer, par excellence, of liberal apparatus at the national, diocesan and parish levels; the motivator for a libertine sex education under ‘Catholic' covers; the facilitator and enabler for the liturgical deconstruction of the Mass; the leader and protector of theological dissenters who are responsible for the loss of faith of millions of Catholics." (10)

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From the Oakland "gallery:" Accused of abuse, Fr. Ponciroli was shifted to various parishes
It needn't have happened. Immediately following the investigation of a serial child molesting priest in Louisiana in the early 1980s, a report was drafted by three experts in 1985 titled, The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem in a Comprehensive and Responsible Manner.

It pointed out that the problem of abuse among priests “was not really pedophilia, which is sexual attraction to children who have not reached the age of puberty, but sexual activity with teenagers. Legally, however, sexual activity with minors even those well over the age of puberty is pedophilia, and raises the same legal liabilities and questions ... Most of the pedophile clerics I have seen and my colleagues have dealt with are homosexual pedophiles and not heterosexual pedophiles; this is surprising since the greater percentage in the general population is the opposite" (11).

The report, called the Doyle-Mouton-Peterson Manual, recommended precise steps to deal with abusive priests, and was sent to all U.S. Bishops. They did not even discuss it at their annual June meeting. What they did was ignore it. Hardly a priest was aware of the report's existence. In short, “the response was a deafening silence" (12).

Fourteen years earlier, a similar report warning of a potential crisis in the priesthood was presented to a meeting sponsored by members of the 1971 Synod of Bishops (Karol Wojtyla was in attendance. Titled The Role of the Church in the Causation, Treatment and Prevention of the Crisis in the Priesthood, it was distributed in English and French to all Synod participants. Dr. Conrad W. Baars, one of the authors of the report, reported the alarming findings of medical studies of priests:

"Everyone agrees that there exists a crisis in the priesthood.... (Baars) estimated that 20-25% have serious psychiatric difficulties ... 60-70% suffer from a degree of emotional immaturity (where) psychosexual immaturity expressed in heterosexual or homosexual activity was encountered often. "(13).

Dr. Baars made 10 recommendations, including “better vetting of applicants to the priesthood.” None was implemented.

The crisis is a reflection of Progressivism

With these facts, one can do more than speculate regarding how the progressivist crisis in the Church metastasized. The world entered the Church through windows flung open by Vatican II. Normal men with promising vocations who applied to the priesthood were rejected, while those with no vocations and evil personal agendas or bad tendencies were welcomed (14).

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Msgr. George Francis, accused of abusing 9 girls over three decades, was promoted to dean
The outcome was that after 2002, when the scandal ignited in Boston and it gradually became known that sexual crimes by priests and cover-ups by their superiors was universal, all 195 Dioceses in the United States had to be monitored by former lawmen to stop the criminal action of priests and the superiors who covered their crimes.

The November 2005 "Instruction" from the Congregation for Catholic Education for eliminating the plague of homosexuals in seminaries was completely insufficient. Based on its guidelines, it would seem that only homosexuals whose sexuality is obsessive or neurotic may not receive Holy Orders. The hopes of Catholics awaiting reform were dashed with the publishing of this document, noted Dale Vree, editor of the New Oxford Review. As he lamented in a Feb. 2006 editorial, the priesthood will continue to become a gay profession. (15)

The "Instruction" was treated with contempt, causing public statements from Catholic leaders to generate articles with titles such as this, "All the Bishops Boys – California Prelates Will Continue to Ordain Homosexuals." (17) Other facts have emerged, such as statistics showing that "up to 50% of the priesthood [are] homosexual" (18), that "priests are dying of AIDS at a rate at least four times that of the general U.S. population" (19), and that "roughly two-thirds of top U.S. Catholic leaders have allowed priests accused of sexual abuse to keep working" (20).

Our Lord told St. Catherine of Siena that the sin of sodomy "not only causes Me nausea, but is disgusting even to the Devils themselves whom these depraved creatures have chosen as their lords"(21). May St. Catherine pray for us, that the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady will soon triumph, and deliver us from the moral infection of Progressivism.
1. New Oxford Review, April 2008, page 22.
2. Ibid.
3. Things of the Past? TIA, 12-7-07.
4. Rob Dennis, Jeremy Herb, Matthew Artz and Chris De Benedetti, "Sins, Secrets and Denial," "Diocese under Reported Scope of Abuse Allegations"
5. Contra Costa Times, 4-2-08, A15. Part II showed how the system allowed accused priest to stay in the Diocese; Part III exposed how abuse in the religious orders are among the worst; Part IV dealt with preventive steps for the future.
6. “Leadership disregard,” 3/31/2008
7. "How Catholic Bishops Accepted Sodomy," TIA, 10-3-07.
8. National Catholic Reporter, 8-13-99.
9. Ron Russell, "Bishop Bad Boy," ron.russell(a),, 3-19-03.
10. Paul A. Likoudis, Amchurch Comes Out – The U.S. Bishops, Pedophile Scandals and the Homosexual Agenda, Petersburg, IL: Roman Catholic Faithful, 2002, quote from inside cover.
11. Leon J. Podles, Sacrilege – Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, Crossland Press, 2008. 96, 97.
12. Ibid, p. 96/100.
13. Ibid, p. 95.
14. Michael S. Rose, Goodbye Good Men - How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church, Regnery Pub/Inc, 2002. 15. Why the Priesthood Will Continue to Become a Gay Profession
16. Christopher Zehnder, San Francisco Faith, 3-06, p. 1.
17. Catholic Family News, 2-04, p. 9.
18. Contra Costa Times, 1-31-2000, p. Al.
19. Erven Park, "The Real Crux of the Church's Crisis," 9-02, Vol/13, No/105.
20. St. Catherine of Siena, El diálogo, in Obras de Santa Catalina de Siena, Madrid: BAC, 1991, p. 292.


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Posted May 8, 2008

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