The clerical sexual abuse scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church hit home Thursday, as the Diocese of San Diego added eight priests to the list of those believed to have molested children.
“This is a response to the terrible moment we are in,” said Bishop Robert McElroy, citing a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report that found 1,000 children had been molested by Pittsburgh area priests there, and the resignation of Theodore McCarrick, who is accused of sexually assaulting altar boys, seminarians and priests.
This list extends the roster of predator priests established by a landmark legal case that was concluded 11 years ago. On Sept. 7, 2007, the diocese settled 144 claims of child sexual abuse by 48 priests and one lay employee. The payments totaled $198.1 million, the second-largest settlement by a Catholic diocese in the United States.
The newly listed priests were accused of abuse since the 2007 settlement, or reported to the diocese earlier in files that had been tucked away or mislaid. They were overlooked until, the bishop said, a recent review of records.
“They never kept good records on this stuff until recently,” McElroy said. “They kept records, but not in a very systematic way.”
In San Diego, McElroy will embark on a “listening tour” of the diocese, stopping at eight parishes between Oct. 1 and Nov. 5.
“I’ve met with a number of victims,” McElroy said. “They are looking for — they are really looking for the perpetrator to say it to them, but often the perpetrator is dead — so they are looking for the church to say we are truly sorry for this.”
The Rev. Jose Chavarin. A native of Mexico, he served at Mary Star of the Sea in La Jolla from 1986 through 1991, while also working as associate pastor at Our Lady of Guadelupe in Calexico (1989-1990) and associate pastor at Lemon Grove’s St. John of the Cross (1990-1991).
On June 20 and 23, 2008, the diocese received reports that Chavarin — then working in San Francisco — had sexually abused three boys while in San Diego. The incidents involved two brothers in 1986 or ‘87, and an unrelated boy who was abused between 1985 and 1988.
Confronted with these accusations, Chavarin denied any wrongdoing, then fled to Mexico.
Chavarin’s current whereabouts are unknown.
The Rev. Raymond Etienne. A priest of the Society of the Divine Word, Etienne was an associate pastor at San Bernardino’s St. Anthony parish from 1980 through 1988. He also worked at the Society of the Divine Word seminary in Riverside in the 1960s, where he allegedly sexually assaulted seminarians.
Etienne is deceased, the diocese reports, although officials there could not confirm when or where he died.
The Rev. J. Patrick Foley. While attached to the San Diego diocese, Foley has been living in Northern California since 1991. In 2010, he was suspended from ministry pending a church trial on charges that he had abused two Sacramento-area boys, whose parents had been friends of the priest.
The canonical trial ended in January 2011 without a clear verdict. “He wasn’t guilty,” said Rodrigo Valdivia, the San Diego diocese’s vice-moderator of the curia, “but that’s not to say he was innocent.” His priestly faculties were restored until McElroy removed them in August 2015.
That hasn’t stopped Foley from advertising on his web site as an “Itinerant Papist Preacher,” offering retreats and spiritual counsel. His most recent posting, dated May 18, 2017, is a personal reflection under the heading “Love — and then do as you will.”
The Rev. Michael French. In 2003, the diocese was alerted that French had abused a boy in 1980. French, who died in 1995, came to San Diego in 1973 to pursue doctoral studies at the California School of Professional Psychology.
In 1975, he was a chaplain at the Benedictine Convent for Perpetual Adoration in San Diego.
A director of Catholic Community Services and diocesan director for Worldwide Marriage Encourage, French met his victim at a social occasion in his parent’s home. There were several instances of abuse. The diocese paid a settlement to the victim, who did not press charges in court.
The Rev. Richard Houck. In his long career, Houck served as an assistant priest, an associate pastor, pastor and priest in residence at a series of local parishes — St. Vincent de Paul, St, Charles Borromeo, Our Lady of Angels, St. Charles, St. Didacus and Immaculate Conception, all in San Diego; Most Precious Blood in Chula Vista; and Our Lady of Light in Descanso.
In 1968, he assisted at St. Vincent de Paul, serving alongside another priest whom the diocese would list as a sexual predator in 2008, the Rev. Hugh John Sutton.
While at Most Precious Blood in 1977, he molested a 10-year-old altar boy, according to the diocese. When the victim reported this abuse in 2004, the diocese paid a settlement and the victim did not pursue the matter in court.
Houck died in February 2002.
The Rev. George Lally. As associate pastor at St. Mary in El Centro between September 1970 and February 1972, Lally allegedly molested a boy. A 2002 diocesan report refers to a 1971 agreement to pay college costs for the victim.
“As compensation for having been victimized,” said Valdivia.
The Union-Tribune reported that a man identified as “Ralph S.” sued the diocese, alleging that Lally had abused him when he was an altar boy at St. Mary. “Ralph S.” told reporters that he had reported the crime to St. Mary’s pastor, and Lally was then transferred.
Lally, who left the priesthood in 1979, is married and living in San Clemente.
His wife, a former nun and longtime Catholic administrator and educator, was hired in 1983 as principal of Holy Family School. Within a month, she was terminated. She sued the diocese.
That case was dismissed in 1990.
Msgr. Mark Medaer. While pastor of Our Lady of Guadelupe in Calexico, Medaer allegedly molested a boy in 1982. Roughly 20 years later, the victim reported this abuse to the diocese, which agreed to pay for his counseling.
Diocesan records show the counseling began in March 2002 and continued at least through November 2002.
Medaer died in June 1993.
The Rev. Paolino Montagna. Attached to the diocese for less than three years, Montagna was the associate pastor at El Centro’s Our Lady of Guadalupe (August 1972-October 1973) and then held the same position at a parish in Calexico with the same name, Our Lady of Guadalupe (October 1973-January 1975).
He was accused of molesting two girls. The diocese was unable to say when or where.
Montagna, who left the diocese in January 1975, is believed to be dead.
Full story at The San Diego Union-Tribune.
More “listening sessions” and list of names scheduled to be released in San Jose:
The following is from a letter from Bishop Patrick McGrath of San Jose:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Recent revelations of the horrific and heartbreaking crime of the sexual abuse of minors by priests – and the systematic cover-up by bishops – have fueled a crisis, unprecedented in modern times, in the Catholic Church.
I have begun a process of consultation with lay and priest leaders of the Diocese. This past week, I met with members of our independent Diocesan Review Board, chaired by the Honorable Edward A. Panelli, a retired Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court. I have also met with the Diocesan Consultors, a group of priests who advise me.
Together, we will chart a path forward for the Diocese of San Jose to provide a public accounting of what has already happened and to review and strengthen our efforts to protect minors and vulnerable adults. Here are the initial steps we are undertaking:
- Listening Sessions – Over the next six weeks, I will hold three Listening Sessions throughout the Diocese. These meetings will focus on seeking input from people in the pews on the pathway to reform, listening to those who have been victimized by clerical sexual abuse either directly or in their families, and praying for God’s grace to be our only guide. I invite you to be part of this effort by your presence or your prayers.
- Saturday, September 22, 10 a.m., at Our Lady of the Rosary Hall in Palo Alto
- Tuesday, October 2, 7 p.m., at Most Holy Trinity Parish in San Jose
- Wednesday, October 17, 3 p.m., at Santa Teresa Parish in San Jose
- Release of Names – By mid-October, we will release a list of the names and the status of every priest who has already been found to be credibly accused of abusing minors within the Diocese of San Jose. I hope that releasing these names will help the innocent victims, survivors and their families to take the next step on their journey to wholeness and that it will give others who have not spoken out the strength and trust to come forward.
- Independent Examination of Allegations of Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults – The Diocese of San Jose has arranged for former FBI Executive Assistant Director, Dr. Kathleen McChesney, and her firm, Kinsale Management Consulting, to oversee an in-depth independent review of all records of the Diocese pertaining to the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults committed by any cleric appointed by the Diocesan Bishop to serve in the Diocese. This review of files will also seek to determine how diocesan leadership handled allegations of sexual abuse when they were received. As a result of the examination, there may be additional offenders identified and their names will be released at the completion of this review. We have also asked McChesney to make recommendations as to how we can improve our processes for responding to survivors of abuse, preventing future abuse, and being accountable and more transparent for the actions of offenders and those who may have enabled or protected them.
The reforms that we must undertake at this moment must be based on the principles of the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that have produced positive change since 2002— an unswerving focus on protecting minors and vulnerable adults and a necessary voice for the laity in determining whether an allegation is true. Any genuine reform must forcefully integrate these principles in a framework of accountability that applies to bishops in their personal lives and administrative actions.
In this time of crisis in our Church, we must turn to the Lord in our prayer, and we must act justly. Without both, our efforts will not succeed. May God bless us all and lead us in this work.
With every best wish and kind regard, I remain,
Patrick J. McGrath
Bishop of San Jose
From Diocese of San Jose website.