Features/ Religion/ Top Stories
Law Firm Names Names in Widening NorCal Catholic Church Sex-abuse Scandal
A shocking report released last week by the law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates in Saint Paul, Minn., identified 26 members of the Roman Catholic clergy in Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties who are alleged to have had child sexual-abuse histories that in some cases dated back to the 1960s.
The firm’s findings come as the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has pledged to investigate sexual-abuse charges in the Bay Area and the alleged cover-up by the Catholic Church.
A review of the firm’s thumbnail sketches of the 200-plus accused clergymen from the Bay Area may give insight into what the Boston Globe and the film Spotlight highlighted—that for decades, the Catholic Church dealt with its pedophilia problems by apparently shuffling sex-abusing clergy from one diocese to another. And it indicates that numerous California Catholic clergy sex abusers may have gotten away with their crimes due to a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that rejected a California attempt to retroactively eliminate statutes of limitations for certain sex crimes, including those perpetrated against minors.
Here are the clergy members of the Roman Catholic church who at one time or another were assigned to schools and churches in Marin, Napa or Sonoma counties, and who are alleged to have committed sexual assault against children, according to Anderson & Associates:
• Msgr. Peter Gomez Armstrong, according to the law firm’s report, has been accused of sexually abusing at least one child. He worked at St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael between 1975 and 1979, and died in 2009.
• Fr. James W. Aylward was subject to a civil suit alleging sexual abuse against a minor, which the law firm reports was settled by the Archdiocese of San Francisco. After assignments to San Francisco, Millbrae, San Mateo, Washington, D.C., and Pacifica, Aylward arrived at St. Sylvester’s in San Rafael in 1990 and stayed on for five years. He was then sent to Burlingame for a few years and then to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Mill Valley from 1998 to 2000. His whereabouts are currently unknown, says the law firm report.
• Fr. Arthur Manuel Cunha was assigned to Our Lady of Loretto in Novato and served there between 1984 and 1986. He was absent on sick leave in 1986–87. From 1987 to 1989, his whereabouts were unknown, according to the law firm. He was absent on leave again from 1989 to 1991, and his whereabouts have been unknown since then. The law firm reports that Cunha was “arrested in 1986, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 60 days in jail and four months of counseling in connection with sexually abusing two boys.” He’s been named in multiple civil lawsuits.
• Fr. Sidney J. Custodio was assigned to St. Raphael’s Church in San Rafael in 1955; sex-crime allegations against him were lodged while he worked at St. Gregory in San Mateo County. According to the law firm, his whereabouts have been unknown since 1975.
• Fr. Pearse P. Donovan was assigned to Marin Catholic High School in San Rafael from 1953 to 1955, and allegations of sexual abuse against him were levied when he later worked at St. Clement in Hayward. He’s been named in at least one civil lawsuit, reports Anderson & Associates. He died in 1986.
• Msgr. Charles J. Durkin is reported to have retired in 2002, “a month after the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office requested 75 years worth of church records related to abuse allegations,” reports Anderson. He worked at St. Sebastian’s in San Rafael in 1962, and lived at the Nazareth House in San Rafael after he retired in 2003. He died in 2006 and was the subject of an accusation of sexual assault that occurred while he was at the Star of the Sea in San Francisco, where he served from 1956 to 1961, and again from 1996 to 2003.
• Fr. Arthur Harrison was charged with criminally abusing a 10-year-old when he was assigned to Our Lady of Loretto in Novato, in 1960. The case was dismissed because of the statute of limitation, but the Diocese of San Jose lists Harrison as a clergy-member “with credible allegations of sexual abuse of children,” according to the law firm report. He died in 2006.
• Msgr. John. P. Heaney served from 1971 to 1974 at Marin Catholic High School in Kentfield, and again at St. Rita’s in Fairfax from 1974 1979, according to the firm. Allegations against Heaney arose while he was the SFPD chaplain between 1976 and 2002, and he was criminally charged, in 2002, with multiple felony counts of child abuse that were dropped because the statute of limitations had run out. He died in 2010.
• The Rev. Gregory G. Ingels got his start as a clergyman at Marin Catholic High School in Kentfield in 1970 and was also assigned to St. Isabella’s church in San Rafael in 1982. “Multiple survivors have come forward alleging sexual abuse” by Ingels from 1972 to 1977, reports the Anderson law firm, while he was at the Kentfied school. He too was criminally charged with child sexual abuse, but the charges were dropped owing to the 2003 Supreme Court ruling. His whereabouts since 2011 are unknown, says the law firm.
• Fr. Daniel T. Keohane was assigned to St. Anthony of Padua, in Novato, from 2006 to 2009; a sexual-abuse allegation was made against him for activities he allegedly committed while he was at the Church of the in San Francisco in the 1970s. The San Francisco diocese deemed the allegations credible, as it recommended further investigation. He took a leave of absence in 2015 and his whereabouts since then are unknown, reports the law firm.
• Fr. Jerome Leach served at St. Patrick’s Church in Larkspur from 1980 to 1983 and the Anderson report notes that he was alleged to have committed sex crimes there and at All Souls in San Francisco. In 2002, he was arrested and charged with child sexual abuse, but again, the statute of limitations had run out.
• Fr. Guy Anthony Mrunig spent his career as a clergyman at St. Sebastian’s in Kenfield-Greenbrae from 1971 to 1973; at Marin Catholic High School in Kentfield from 1972 to 1978; and at the Serra Club of Marin County from 1973 to 1977. The report says that multiple survivors have come forward alleging sexual abuse while he was at Marin Catholic in Kentfield. He reportedly left the priesthood to marry a former student from the high school and his whereabouts since 1979 are unknown, says the law firm.
• Msgr. John O’Connor was placed on leave by the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 2002 “after it received an allegation of improper contact with a boy occurring more than thirty years ago,” the law firm reports. During his career, he was mostly assigned to churches in San Francisco, but was at St. Isabella’s in San Rafael between 1964 and 1971. He was “absent on leave” between 2005 and his death in 2013.
• Fr. Miles O’Brien Riley was assigned to St Raphael’s in San Rafael from 1964 to 1968 and also worked as a chaplain at San Quentin State Prison during that time. He was accused of sexually abusing a girl when she was 16, and the Anderson & Associates document notes that the Archdiocese of San Francisco permitted Riley to retire quietly in 2003.
• Fr. John Schwartz was ordained in 1981 and, after assignments in Oregon, wound up at St. Anselm’s in Ross in 2004–06. No further information is provided by the Anderson report on allegations against Schwartz, whose whereabouts since 2012 are unknown, says the law firm.
• Fr. Kevin F. Tripp was ordained in 1968 and spent much of his career in Massachusetts, where, in 2002 the district attorney in Fall River released a list of priests under investigation for sexual abuse, and Tripp was on the list, according to the law firm. The Massachusetts district attorney’s finding alleged that there were two persons who had been victimized by Tripp. The law firm determined that as of 2003, and according to a San Francisco Faith newsletter, Tripp was the executive director of the Marin Interfaith Council in San Rafael.
• Fr. Milton T. Walsh’s first clergy assignment was at Our Lady of Loretto in Novato before heading to Rome to get his doctorate in 1982. He reportedly returned to Novato on a break from his studies, “where he allegedly sexually abused a boy whose family he had grown close with during his time working at Our Lady of Loretto,” reads the law firm report; he was at Loretto between 1978 and 1980. Walsh was arrested for the sexual assault in 2002 after being caught in a Novato police-department telephone sting where he admitted to the sexual abuse of a minor—but the charges were dropped. Yes, the statute of limitations case, again. His whereabouts since 2015? Unknown, says the law firm.
• Fr. Edward F. Beutner was ordained in 1965 and spent the next quarter century moving from assignments in Wisconsin to California, including a one-year special assignment at Mont La Salle in Napa. No further information is provided from Anderson & Associates on his alleged misdeeds. He died in 2008.
• Fr. Don D. Flickinger was charged by the San Jose Diocese with having engaged in sexual activity with minors in the years 2002, 2005 and 2006. The cases were all settled, and a 2011 lawsuit against Flickinger alleged that he had a history of sexual misconduct spanning 40 years. He spent two years, 1981 to 1983, at Napa’s Mont La Salle Novitiate.
• Fr. Francis J. Ford was ordained in 1951 and died in 1985. He served as Chaplain at Napa State Hospital from 1974 to 1976. No further information on Ford was provided in the Anderson law firm report.
• Br. John Moriarty worked at the St. Helena Christian Brothers’ Retreat House, in Napa County, from 1974 to 1978 and is alleged to have committed sexual abuse against children in 1975–76. He is believed to have passed in 2013, but his whereabouts since 1993 are unknown, says the law firm.
• Fr. Francis Verngren was the subject of a 2003 civil lawsuit file by a man who says the priest sexually abused him from 1966 to 1979, when Verngren was principal at St. Mary’s College High School in Berkeley. He was also affiliated with the St. Mary’s College High School in Napa between 1964 and 1984, and died in 2003.
• Br./Fr. Donald W. Eagleson’s abuse charges stem from a 1971 incident while he was a Brother of the Holy Cross and allegedly sexually abused a youth. He was assigned to St. Vincent de Paul in Petaluma between 1986 and 1987. In 2002, he was assigned to Sacred Heart Church in Eureka, where another abuse allegation arose regarding his 1971 activities. He was at Nazareth House in San Rafael in 2004 when, the law firm reports, he died.
• Fr. J. Patrick Foley was identified last month, by the San Diego diocese he served in for decades, as a likely candidate to have committed sexual abuse against minors. After a 1991 leave of absence from the San Diego diocese, he arrived at Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento for a few years before landing in the Santa Rosa diocese, according to the law firm. He was suspended in 2010 and his whereabouts since 2015 have been unknown, reports the law firm.
• Br. Joseph (Jesse) Gutierrez-Cervantes was hired as a contract psychologist at Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma in 1984 and was fired two years later “after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced” that Gutierrez had sexually abused boys during therapy sessions. According to the Anderson report, his current whereabouts, clerical status and whether he has access to children are unknown.
• Fr. Austin Peter Keegan “has been accused of sexually abusing at least 80 children and has been named in at least one civil lawsuit. Keegan’s abuses are alleged to have started in the 1960s when he worked for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Diocese of Santa Rosa, where he served from 1977 to 1979. He was at St. Eugene’s Cathedral in Santa Rosa from 1980 to 1981, but the law firm reports his whereabouts have been unknown since then.