Many Catholic bishops state on their websites that none of them ever sent a known or suspected predator priest to another diocese. If you actually believe that, well, the facts show otherwise.
For years it’s been widely known that child molesting clerics were quietly sent to other states and dioceses once their abuse was made known to bishops. Indeed, several Catholic bishops and officials have admitted this, sometimes even under oath. With that said, bishops often make little or no acknowledgment of this self-serving pattern on their websites.
Perhaps the most recent example of this duplicitousness that Horowitz Law has found involves the Crookston Minnesota diocese. Fr. Robert Bester was a priest In Crookston. He died in 2019 but is accused of soliciting sex from an Alaskan man who taped the conversation and handed it over to a TV station to air. Crookston Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens discloses several Minnesota towns where Fr. Bester worked, including, Fisher, Alma, Leo, Benwood, Duluth, and Crookston. However, Cozzens hides the fact that Fr. Bester also worked in Alaska and North Dakota.
We at Horowitz Law see this pattern often. Church officials and Catholic Bishops only disclose some details of where predator priests worked but conveniently omit the places they abused in.
Let’s look at another relatively small diocese of San Jose California, headed by Bishop Oscar Cantu. To his credit, Cantu acknowledges that several of its priests spent time overseas (Fr. Noel Senevirante in Sri Lanka and Fr. Hernan Toro in Colombia). And to his credit, he admits that several accused San Jose priests also spent time in San Francisco (Fr. Joseph Pritchard, Fr. Alexander Larkin, Fr. Lauren Largente, Fr. Philip McGrillis, and Fr. George Moss). But inexplicably, Cantu doesn’t admit that at least two of its predator priests, Fr. Raymond V. Dunn and Fr. Joseph Dondero, also spent time in San Francisco.
Bishop Cantu notes that Fr. Angelo C. Mariano had one assignment in the San Jose area. But again, Cantu hides the fact that Fr. Mariano also worked in the Sacramento diocese (according to the Jesuits). Similarly, Cantu acknowledges that Fr. Phil Sunseri worked at one parish in his diocese. But inexplicably, the bishop hides the fact that Fr. Sunseri also worked in Arizona and New York (according to the Jesuits).
But what is even more alarming is that Cantu, like nearly every one of his colleagues, did something even worse than hiding work assignments. Cantu completely hides predator priests from the list at all. Cantu leaves OFF his ‘credibly accused’ list a number of clerics who belong there. For instance, there’s no mention on the San Jose church website of Fr. Edward Thomas Burke or Br. Charles Leonard Connor, who are both credibly accused of abusing at least one vulnerable adult, according to the Jesuits. Lawsuits against them have been settled. Bishop Cantu omits Fr. Joseph Lopez, who may still live in San Jose, where he moved after leaving the priesthood and was accused of molesting a high school girl in Los Angeles.
Why does any of this matter? Because bishops promised ‘full transparency’ on abuse. If they are breaking their promises and carefully parceling only partial information, then it’s hard to have faith they’re being honest about abuse. If bishops are hiding all or some of the work assignments of their predator priests, we must ask: What else are they hiding? And let’s get very specific. If a bishop doesn’t disclose that Fr. X worked in town Y, then a victim (or her friends or relatives) may well keep silent, thinking, “I thought Fr. X was here and spent time with (the victim), but I guess I was wrong.”
Because mentioning every work assignment that a predator has increases the chances that someone in one of those towns or parishes will realize that they saw, suspected, or suffered abuse and will go on to report that to law enforcement, which is bar far the very best way to ensure that other girls and boys are spared the life-long trauma of sexual victimization.
The bottom line: If you SAY you’re going to be open and honest, why not actually BE open and honest, all the way, like you promised? But then again, Catholic church corruption has been going on for decades.