Pedophile priests and alcohol tend to go hand-in-hand. This statement is especially true for Fr. Stephen Kiesle, a California predator priest, who was recently arrested for killing a man while driving drunk. The news of this incident presents a few disturbing facts.
- Many predator priests are still alive.
- Most of them have not been defrocked (and are thus still getting paid by church officials).
- Most of them live unsupervised, on their own, among unsuspecting neighbors.
If they have already broken laws by molesting children, common sense suggests they’re apt to do it again. This is especially true if they essentially escaped consequences for their child sex crimes. Kiesle was no exception.
Fr. Stephen Kiesle, a twice-convicted child molester, was charged last week in a fatal crash that killed a man walking on a sidewalk with his wife in Walnut Creek, California. Fr. Kiesle has also been accused of – and repeatedly sued for – sexually abusing at least 15 children, allegedly tying up two of them. He went to prison and was put on probation. But for three years after being defrocked, Catholic officials let him volunteer in youth ministry at a parish. (Fr. Kiesle worked in at least four California cities – Pinole, Fremont, Union City, and Oakland – and had homes in two others – Truckee and Walnut Creek.)
As you might imagine, Fr. Kiesle is far from the only cleric to abuse both kids and alcohol. Many other examples of Catholic officials generated controversy because of their committing or concealing child sex crimes AND drinking excessively. It is even often regarded as the “curse of the Catholic clergy.” Here are just a handful:
- Bishop Thomas O’Brien of Phoenix is believed to be the first Roman Catholic bishop in US history to be convicted of a felony after his hit-and-run accident that left a pedestrian dead.
- Cardinal William Levada of San Francisco became a top church official in Rome and was pulled over in Hawaii for driving while intoxicated.
- Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco (Levada’s successor) was arrested for drunk driving and later joked about it at his installation.
- Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, MA pled guilty to refusing a chemical breath test after being arrested on suspicions of driving while intoxicated.
- Fr. Norbert F. Orsolits of Buffalo reportedly molested and gave booze to underage boys and was charged with driving while intoxicated.
- Fr. David J. Kelley of Cincinnati is accused of abusing at least 38 boys during a career as a theology teacher, wrestling coach, parish priest, hospital chaplain, and counselor. He was arrested for drunk driving in 1984.
- Fr. Jerome Gillispie of Boston reportedly propositioned a girl and her mom while drunk.
- Sister Eileen Shaw of New Jersey allegedly plied a 15-year-old girl with drugs and alcohol while showing her how to have sex with a woman.
There are generally two schools of thought about clerics like this. Some argue that those who assault kids or adults – or ignore or hide such assaults – drink heavily to mask their deep feelings of guilt or remorse.
Others maintain, however, that many of them are sociopaths who give little or no thought to the feelings or safety of others and drink to excess in part because they believe that they’re above the rules that apply to other people. According to research, alcohol has measurable effects on sexual arousal and risk-taking. A few drinks can increase the likelihood that a person will become the perpetrator or the victim of sexual assault and make a person more likely to have unprotected sex or pursue some object of desire that would be taboo under more sober circumstances.
Making a determination like this, is as they say ‘above our pay grade’ here at Horowitz Law. But this we DO know that ignoring wrongdoing encourages wrongdoing. And assuming that wrongdoers don’t need to face the consequences because they’ve supposedly changed or reformed or learned their lesson is reckless. It’s the opposite of prudence and justice. Every human being is accountable for their actions, priest or not. Nobody is above the law.