On Oct. 18, 2018, Bishop Patrick McGrath of the San Jose Diocese released a public list of “priests with credible allegations of sex abuse” in the Diocese. That list contained only 15 names. In comparison, other dioceses in the U.S. this past year released lists of clergy abusers with much higher numbers.
The disparity left parishioners, public, and media in San Jose scratching their heads. Was the San Jose Diocese uncommonly less prone to child sex abuse reports than the rest of the country? Or did Bishop McGrath and his consultants arbitrarily pick and choose what priests they wanted on the list?
According to newly released documents and testimony from clergy abuse victims, the list appears to be 440 percent short.
Ever since the Pennsylvania Attorney General and grand jury released their scathing report of clergy abusers in August 2018, dioceses across the U.S. have been releasing their own voluntary lists of abusers. Abuse victims and their advocates say this voluntary action is an attempt at damage control, and an effort to beat other state attorneys general to the punch. Some say it’s also an attempt at minimizing the numbers beforehand.
Why the purportedly low numbers in San Jose?
Perhaps an insight into the process of information, and the exclusion of certain Catholic institutions on the “list” can shine light on the discrepancy.
Many dioceses include “religious order” priests into the equation when considering how many clergy abusers were in their jurisdiction, but some do not. Religious order priests, such as Jesuits, Salesians, Dominicans, Franciscans, and so on, are Catholic priests that belong to communities and organizations within a church. Some Catholics believe that religious order priests are not under jurisdiction of the bishop of a diocese. But this conflict may be cleared up, according to a public statement on Oct. 28, 2018, by Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, the highest ranking bishop in Northern California.
Bishop Cordileone was confronted in a public forum by SNAP—the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests—at the Diocese of San Francisco, with the following question ...
“There seems to be an ongoing conflict about whether or not a Bishop of a Diocese is in charge, and has authority over religious order priests who are in the diocese. My question is: Does the bishop of a diocese—like you—have authority and control over religious order priests, and can he hire and remove them any time he wants to?”
“I, as bishop, and any bishop of a diocese, has authority over any religious order priests—and any priest at all in the diocese at all times. I can hire or get rid of any priest at any time in the diocese if I don’t want him here.”
With that issue presumably cleared up by Bishop Cordileone, conversation about the matter evolves. The San Jose Diocese list excludes numerous Jesuit priests who were present in the diocese at several locations, including churches, schools and parishes.
Many feel that the omission of numerous Jesuit priests who also ministered and taught at schools in the Diocese of San Jose is deceitful, and is an attempt to pull the wool over the public’s eyes. Bishop McGrath has chosen to include three Jesuit priests in his list of the 15 abusers he mentioned in his list on October. So, arguments that Jesuits should not be included on the list, appear to be quashed by Bishop McGrath himself.
The Jesuits listed by Bishop McGrath in his list are: Angel Mariano, Phillip Sunseri and Joseph Dondero. Since the diocese has voluntarily opened the door to admission that Jesuits are included in the Diocese of San Jose’s list of accused predator clergy, it leads to the obvious question as to how many Jesuits were excluded.
The answer is stunning.
According to the Jesuit Province of the West, on its own release of Jesuits who were credibly accused of sex abuse, an astonishing 66 more Jesuits were present in the San Jose Diocese jurisdictional area. Those accused priests appeared at Alma Seminary, Bellarmine College Preparatory School, Saint Joseph’s Church, Sacred Heart Center, Saint Clare’s Church, and other venues.
Some skeptics argue that only priests who actively abused in the San Jose Diocese’s location should be included on the list. Others say that if a cleric molested a child in another diocese, but worked or lived at some time in the San Jose Diocese, he should be listed as being there. Earlier this month, the Santa Rosa Diocese released the list of accused clergy abusers there—and they did include priests who had abused elsewhere, but had lived or worked at some point in the Santa Rosa Diocese. Abuse victims advocates say this is prudent, because typically child abusers do not confine their acts to only one area, and are a threat to children wherever they live.
In 1934, the Jesuits opened a seminary in Los Gatos called “Alma College.” This seminary was arguably a breeding ground for dozens of clergy sexual predators for decades. The Jesuit “Sacred Heart Center” in Los Gatos has been a “retirement center,” and a “medical center” for dozens of Jesuit priests who have been accused of child rape and molestation as well. Most of the Jesuit clergy abusers listed as abusers were at one or both of these two locations at some point, and many are said to be living at Sacred Heart Center today.
According to the Jesuit West Province release list on Dec. 7, 2018, the following 66 San Jose area-linked Jesuits are listed as credibly accused:
Rene Astruc, Arnold Beezer, William Bischoff, John Joseph Brown, Edward Burke, Francis Burris, Francis Callan, Eugene Colosimo, Thomas Connelly, Jules Convert, Patrick Conway, Robert Corrigal, John Coughlin, Arnold Custer, Raymone Devlin, Norman Donahue, Francis Duffy, Francis Fallart, Arthur Falvey, Mark Falvey, William Farrington, Augustine Ferretti, Rene Gallant, Harold Greife, Henry Hargreaves, John Harrington, Bernard Harris, Theodore Hilaire, James Hurley, John Hurley, James Jacobson, Gordon Keys, David King, Leanard Kohlman, John Leary, Paul Linssen, John Maholy, John McDonald, James McDonough, William McIntire, Bernard McMeel, Gabriel Menager, John Moniz, James Monoghan, John Morse, Cornelius Murphy, William Nash, Joseph Obersinner, Charles O'’Conner, Charles Oranato, Harold Ornsdorff, Thomas O’Rourke, Richard Pausen, Eugene Pierre, James Poole, Jose Ribeiro, Edmund Robinson, Charles Saalfield, John Shepard, Stephen Speciale, Wellington Stanislaus, Edward Stretch, Thomas Sullivan, Gary Uhlencott, Carleton Whitten and last but not least, William Wood.
With the addition of these 66 Jesuit accused clergy who were at one time living in the San Jose geographical jurisdiction, the number of accused clergy in the San Jose Diocese is arguably 81. This would represent an approximate increase of 440 percent more sex abuser clergy than Bishop McGrath had listed.
This figure would be more in tune with the lists provided by other dioceses’ in the U.S., and is an eye opener as far as re-evaluating Jesuit clergy abusers in the area. SNAP leaders say that because the additional 66 Jesuit abusers were named as being present in the San Jose area by the Jesuits themselves, there is cause for concern that there are still many victims of abuse that have not come forward.
Numerous lawsuits were filed against the 66 additional named predators in the past, and many more lawsuits are said to be pending.
Joey Piscitelli is a survivor of clergy abuse who twice defeated the Catholic church in a jury trial. A lifelong advocate for child abuse victims like himself, he currently serves as the Northern California leader for SNAP. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].