A Good Way to Evaluate Bishops

On Behalf of | Oct 18, 2022 | Firm News

Evaluating Bishops Horowitz Law

It may sound obvious or easy, but if someone wants to know how good a sports team is, there are ways to define it. One could look at its win-loss record to get a rough sense of how good the team is overall. To narrow that down some, one could then see how good a baseball player might be by looking at his batting average. To get a rough sense of how good a pitcher might be, one could look at his earned run average (basically how many times opposing teams scored when he was on the mound). But when it comes to defining how “good” a Catholic bishop is, specifically when it comes to abuse, how does one evaluate it? There are many factors to consider, but we at Horowitz Law suggest that start by looking at his ‘credibly accused’ clerics list. Bishops have considerable freedom to make their lists helpful, thorough, and detailed–– or not.

Let’s take the Diocese of Fresno’s Bishop Joseph Brennan, for example. Bishop Brennan gets credit for including at least some religious order clerics on his list, including Fr. Thomas Purcell (a Marianist), Fr. Bernardine Solvyns (a Benedictine), Fr. James Cairns (a Vincentian), Br. Samuel Cabot (a Franciscan), Fr. Francis X. Darmaddy, and Fr. Anthony Slane (both Redemptorists).

Unlike some of his more secretive colleagues, Bishop Brennan disclosed that some Fresno area predator priests also worked in other US dioceses, including Fr. Stuart B. Campbell and Fr. David Laurian Carriere (both Dominicans who also worked in the Los Angeles area). The bishop also mentions that some of the child molesting clerics who are or were in the Fresno area came from other countries, including Fr. Sauveur Tambourin (from France), Fr. James Collins (from Ireland), two from Mexico (Fr. Jose Luis Vega Sanchez and Fr. Jose Morelos) and two from the Philippines (Fr. Benjamin S. Gabriel and Fr. John Nacauili Naldoza).

This is helpful because once they’re caught, charged, sued, or suspended because of abuse reports, many priests flee the US and head to their home countries, sometimes with the help of their US bishop. Back at home, these clerics are sometimes still allowed to work in parishes (Los Angeles priests Fr. Santiago Tamayo, Fr. Angel Cruces, and five other priests sexually assaulted a 16-year-old Los Angeles girl. They were all sent back to the Philippines, where at least a couple of them were kept on the job.

On the downside, the Fresno ‘credibly accused clerics list’ refuses to provide critical, helpful facts.

  • He makes no mention of the number or type of allegations
  • He provides no photos of the offenders
  • He lists no “last known whereabouts,” a key factor that helps keep kids safe.

Similarly, Bishop Brennan notes that Fr. Fidencio Silva ‘left the diocese’ but didn’t reveal where he went. Don’t police, prosecutors, parishioners, and parents in that other city, state, or country deserve to know that a suspended and suspected child molesting Fresno cleric ended up living or working nearby?

At least a few easily answered but conspicuously overlooked questions pop to mind:

  • Fr. Purcell was “convicted of minor sexual abuse in another diocese,” but Fresno’s bishop won’t say which.
  • Fr. Thomas Farrell “left the (Fresno) diocese,” but there’s no mention of where he went. The bishop does note that Farrell worked in “supply ministry” but refuses to say exactly what that is.
  • The Fresno website tells us that fr. Robert Davis is being defrocked, but when that process started, is omitted. That matters because, in some cases, the Vatican moves relatively quickly to defrock predators while dragging its feet in other cases. Often, the more high-profile predators get ousted more speedily. (See the recent case of Fr. Craig Harrison.) 
  • Fr. Davis’ case has been in process for at least a year.
  • The whereabouts of at least three Fresno clerics (Fr. Hermy Dave Ceniza, Fr. Jorge de Jesus Gomez Forunda, and Fr. Ramon Gomez) are supposedly ‘unknown.’ It .’seems highly unlikely that no one on the Fresno church payroll knows where these alleged child molesters went or are.

In short, the Fresno diocese’s ‘credibly accused’ list is better than some but still has a long way to go to be genuinely ‘transparent.’ Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at (888) 283-9922or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.