Oakland, You Can Do Better. Why Won’t Bishop Barber Include Where Predators Worked or Lived?

On Behalf of | Nov 11, 2022 | Firm News

Diocese of Oakland Horowitz Law

It is no secret that we at Horowitz Law have criticized Catholic officials who profess to be transparent about disclosing information on sexual abuse yet continue to protect predator priests by leaving their names off of ‘credibly accused’ lists. In fact, we have yet to examine even one such list, whether posted by diocesan or religious order officials, that could be considered fully complete. 

On this score, the Diocese of Oakland‘s Bishop Michael Barber is no different than his peers. If one simply Googles information of publicly accused Oakland area clerics, a few media reports instantly pop up highlighting the names of three publicly accused priests who’ve been sued or suspended because of child sex abuse reports. But these three don’t appear on Bishop Barber’s accused list. The question is, why? Why doesn’t the bishop disclose such pertinent information to the world? Unlike most US prelates, Barber provides absolutely no information about where these dangerous priests, brothers, nuns, seminarians, and brothers worked or lived (much less where they may be now).

So, an abuse victim who can’t recall the last name of the priest who groped her in the second grade (“He told us just to call him ‘Fr. Mike'”) remains in the dark. A law enforcement officer helping an abuse survivor track down their perpetrator is left hamstrung. A journalist trying to write a thorough and accurate report about a child molesting cleric who was arrested, pled guilty, or fled the US, is hampered. An adult considering becoming a Catholic can’t learn how many child molesting clerics were assigned to the parish he may soon join.

There are many reasons why parents, police, prosecutors, parishioners, and the public should know not just WHO the child molesters are but also WHERE they are, or at least where they were. Bishop Barber has most of this information in his diocesan files but chooses to omit it. With minimal effort, Bishop Barber could get nearly all of this information, but he refuses to share it.

That’s NOT the ‘transparency’ that the church hierarchy has been pledging to provide for decades. Here are just three accused Oakland area child molesting clerics who Bishop Barber has chosen to continue protecting from scrutiny by omitting them from his ‘accused’ list. 

  • Fr. Alexander Castillo: In 2019, he reportedly fled the US five hours after police were notified of an allegation against him, presumably to his native Costa Rica. Fr. Castillo worked in parishes in Oakley and Fremont, taught at St. Junipero Serra Catechetical Institute and Escuela de Ministerios Pastorales, and was at the helm of the diocesan Department of Faith Formation and Evangelization. 
  • Fr. Ricardo Chavez: In 2020, a lawsuit accusing him of molesting a child for ten years settled for $3.5 million. The plaintiff’s attorney said Fr. Chavez was kept in active ministry for months after church officials heard allegations against him in 2019. The same accuser also reported being raped by Fr. Michael Van Dinh and abused in Oregon by Fr. Luis Lopez.
  • Fr. George Crespin – As diocesan chancellor and vicar general over a number of years, he admits he did not report incidents and allegations of abuse by Oakland priests. When he was accused of sexual assault himself while pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City in the 1970s, Fr. Crespin denied it. A church investigated, but he was sued again in 2019 by two men for alleged childhood victimization.

At least Bishop Barber includes the credibly accused abusive religious order clerics on his list. There are plenty of them. They include Dominicans, Franciscans, Salesians, Oblates, Holy Cross Fathers, and Precious Brood Fathers. In fact, there are 21 Franciscans alone. They include Melvin Bucher, Mario Cimmarrusti, Phillip Colloty, Berard Connolly, Francis Ford, Adrian Furman, Rayner Harrington, David Johnson, Steven Kain, Conan Lee, Dennis Duffy, Mark Liening, Jorge Lopez, Martin McKeon, Bede McKinnon, Joaquin Moreno, Robert Peguero, Josef Prochnow, Tom Thing, Robert Van Handel, and Ramon Varela. 

In the Oakland diocese, there have also been four abusive Salesian clerics (Bernard Dabbene, Virendra Coutts, Stephen Whelan, and Richard Presenti), two abusive Oblates (Ruben Martinez and James McSorley), two abusive Redemptorists (Cornelius Pedraig Leehan and Anthony Slane), one abusive Dominican (Roberto Bravo), one abusive Jesuit (Jerold Lindner), one abusive Precious Blood cleric (Gary M. Luiz, and one abusive Holy Cross cleric (Gordon Wilcox). Bishop Barber discloses other ‘credibly accused’ clerics, including William Odom-Green from Kentucky’s Diocese of Owensboro, J. Patrick Foley from San Diego, and Alexander Pinter, whose home diocese or religious order church officials claim is allegedly unknown.

Separately, Oakland Catholic officials name several accused religious order brothers: Salvatore Billante (Salesian), Terrence Wong (Marianist), Lawrence O’Brien, and Donald Eagleson (both Holy Cross brothers) and four Christian Brothers: Joseph (‘Jesse’ Gutierrez, John Moriarty, Raimond Rose, and Francis Verngren. Collectively, these are a lot of names. And predators’ names are important. But names alone are not sufficient. Posting names of abusive clergy is the very least any Catholic official should do, given both the church hierarchy’s decades of reckless and selfish secrecy. Those postings should include ALL predatory clerics, no matter where they were ordained, what diocese they may have transferred to or from, and anywhere else they may have lived, worked, studied, or retired.

For kids’ safety and victims’ healing, these postings should also include each country, state, town, and work site where these men spent any time. THAT’S true transparency. That’s what bishops have promised. That’s what Catholics and citizens deserve. And that’s what they need to protect their children.

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, please contact our law firm at 888-283-9922 or email sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at [email protected]Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.