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More on "Sex Offender" Priory

By Matt C. Abbott
Renew America
March 3, 2005

http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/abbott/050303

I always appreciate solid information provided to me by concerned readers who are "in the know." The following is a lengthy excerpt from an even lengthier e-mail I received from such a reader...

The Western Dominican Province has been harboring seven men guilty of sexual misconduct with minors in their house of formation, St. Albert's Priory, in Oakland, Calif., as well as in a residential home a few streets up from the priory called Siena House (by the Dominicans).

Although the story has been covered in other publications, there are still angles that have not been covered.

The most disturbing information learned at the closed meeting with concerned parents and neighbors held after the Dominicans were publicly exposed was about the unauthorized travel to Bangkok — a pedophile's paradise — by one of the priests (Fr. Leo Tubbs is reportedly the priest who traveled to Bangkok) who is being harbored by the Western Dominican Province because of his alleged sexual misconduct with at least one minor. Fr. Corral told neighbors the priest was expressly forbidden to go, but went anyway. When hard pressed, he also admitted that the priest was not on any official mission.

Weeding through conflicting remarks made to the press by the Dominican's private spin doctor, Carla Hass, we know that the Dominicans have admitted moving six priests and one brother into the neighborhood (four at St. Albert's and three at Siena House). Six have arrived during the last two and one half years, and one has been there for ten years, though only credibly accused in the past two. They have acknowledged that the accusations against these men go back as far as five decades, and that the most recent was made five years ago, that the diocese has been informed of their presence, that these men do not have any public ministry, and that they have no interaction with children or young people.

They have stated that five of these men admitted to sexual misconduct with minors. Apparently, two of these men will not acknowledge any wrongdoing on their part. They have also told the press that the incidents of sexual misconduct involved both male and female "older adolescents," yet they told neighbors during the invitation only meeting that the youngest was only 11....

Whatever the Dominicans have said publicly, there is more that people do not know. An eighth priest offender was moved in and out of St. Albert's Priory before the media was alerted that these men were being harbored. This priest was accepted into the Western Dominican Province from the Philippines even though it was apparently known that he was guilty of sexual misconduct with minors. He was admitted to the Western Province on a trial basis, and was first stationed at St. Dominic's Parish in Eagle Rock in the Los Angeles area. He was later moved to the Newman Center ministry in Salt Lake City because there was an immediate need. Once the sex abuse scandals within the Church in America became widely public, he was moved to St. Albert's Priory where he stayed for a brief period. The priest eventually left the Western Province and returned to the Philippines.

Then there is the case of Fr. Jerome Henson, who has since left the Western Province (he has been a diocesan priest for many years). Henson lived at St. Albert's for years while in his studies. He was a solemnly professed member of the Western Dominican Province and ordained a priest through the order. He is reportedly being sued in a civil action for sexual abuse of a minor boy. He was caught in the act of abusing the boy in a Benicia cemetery by a Sacramento-area police officer on a summer night in 1981....

Henson represents a ninth known abuser to reside at or pass through St. Albert's....

The Dominicans claim to have reported all of the incidents of abuse to the authorities, yet the media has found no evidence to support these claims, especially with respect to the incidents of sexual misconduct that apparently took place in Salt Lake City with adolescent girls....

An attempt has been made by Fr. Roberto Corral to portray the offenders as "delightful men" who made a "foolish mistake" at one time in their lives, yet in at least one priest's case there was reportedly more than one victim, and since the priests' names and places they worked are being protected by the Order, other victims have not had a chance to come forward. Some reports have even minimized the offenses of these seven men by portraying the offenders as aging men whose presence is far less frightening than the eleven registered sex offenders currently living in the district.

The reality is that, because of the Western Dominican Province policy of aggregating Dominican pedophiles at St. Albert's and Siena House, eighteen sex offenders now live in the district. Seven of the offenders, all offenders against minors, just happen to be under the protection of the Western Dominican Province, and therefore never charged with or convicted of the sexual crimes against minors for which the Dominicans are paying victim's restitution. How does that make them more benign than the eleven publicly registered offenders in the district who didn't make vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience or receive the sacrament of Holy Orders? While the Dominicans refuse to identify the seven pedophiles at St. Albert's and Siena House, the identity of the registered sex offenders is a matter of public record and particulars about them and their offenses are available on the Internet.

Another disturbing facet of this debacle is the fact that Fr. Michael Monshau is the Prior (the priest in charge) at St. Albert's Priory. Fr. Monshau has shown a history of ineptitude and indifference when he has been the superior in a house with priests known to have aberrant drives and appetites, as can be seen by the news article, 'Church Passed Blame In Priest's Sex Abuse' [Detroit Free Press, May 23, 2002; www.freep.com/news/religion/priest23_20020523.htm .] Now, once again Father Monshau is in charge of a house with priests who have abused minors. Yet the Dominicans pretend to have been taking every precaution all along in closely monitoring these "delightful men"?

In another incident, a seminarian caught looking at pornography on the Internet was allowed to remain with the order, even though this same seminarian had reportedly sexually harassed a fellow seminarian. This occurred under the supervision of Fr. Michael Monshau and Fr. Chris Renz. Fr. Monshau was Assistant Student Master and the brother in question was a student in his second year (his third year in residence at St. Albert's). The sexually harassed seminarian repeatedly complained of inappropriate comments about his body and of unwanted physical contact that was expressly sexual in nature. When the complaint was made, the seminarian was told by his superior, "Welcome to the family." The offending brother remained at St. Albert's for almost a year after the first complaints. Those involved in this incident have since left the order, not all of their own volition.

There is a tremendously unhealthy influence that permeates the atmosphere of the Western Dominican Province and St. Albert's Priory. It involves a calculated seduction of those in formation. Its tools are laxity, indulgence, and rationalization. The fact is, although there are a number of good men in formation, as well as some good Dominican priests and brothers within the province, there are serious issues within the order that need to be addressed.

Understand that the men who have abused minors, though now hidden from prying eyes, are still afforded every comfort the Dominicans can allow them. They have been protected from the consequences of their actions and have lived comfortable lives, even continuing in public ministry until the priestly pedophile scandals became big news a few years back.

For a number of years, one of those guilty of sexual misconduct with minors was one of eight men who sat on the interview panel to screen candidates for entry into the order. Additionally, the offenders living at St. Albert's get to vote whether or not students are allowed to continue in the community. Men who have egregiously violated their own vows should not have a say in who gets to stay or go in religious life. That should be obvious, but misplaced compassion has overridden the obvious in this instance.

Seminarians were also told that the Order had planned to put the man the Dominicans now claim to chaperone constantly back into active ministry in Utah before priestly abuse had become big news in 2002. Now he's supposedly carefully monitored. What changed besides public awareness and the fear of adverse publicity? It takes years for abuse victims to come forward. The latest reports indicate this priest is now leaving the order.

The Dominicans reacted to the public scandals by rounding up their own offenders and moving them into the neighborhood while attempting to minimize the discomfort of the offenders they had moved. They did not carefully monitor these men before they were held accountable by public scrutiny. That is certain.

The man they claim to chaperone everywhere he goes has been allowed to make car trips alone into San Francisco and Los Angeles without any supervision. The Dominicans claim to have tightened their restrictions (since the recent media coverage) and told the world these were "delightful men" who pose no threat. How is this to be reconciled with the trip to Bangkok? If these "delightful men" pose no threat, why bother tightening restrictions at all? Why the need for all the secrecy? Why the desperate attempts to control the flow of information?

The point should be made that the names of these offenders and places they have worked were deliberately withheld by Fr. Corral at the meeting with neighbors. Fr. Corral repeatedly cited the men's "privacy rights," but perhaps more important, by concealing their identities and the parishes and ministries where they worked, no more victims can come forward. Many victims will not come forward unless someone before them has made credible accusations already. Many victims cannot bring themselves to be the first to say something "bad" about a beloved or respected priest....

As one of the neighbors said, "As long as the Church continues to enable pedophiles' behavior by being their safe harbor, the ongoing conduct of priests, pedophiles or not, makes you equally complicit in their lifestyle."

I couldn't have said it better.

The story was first covered in these articles in the San Francisco Faith:

(November 2004) "Soft Men":
http://www.sffaith.com/ed/articles/2004/0411rk.htm

(January 2005) Editorial Response To "Soft Men" From Fr. Roberto Corral (Prior Provincial of the Western Dominican Province):
http://www.sffaith.com/ed/letters/2005letters/0501lett.htm

(February 2005) Editorial Response To Fr. Corral's Response:
http://www.sffaith.com/ed/letters/2005letters/0502lett.htm

(March 2005) Latest Article On The Dominicans, "More Than A Witch Hunt":
http://www.sffaith.com/ed/articles/2005/0503rk.htm

(March 2005) Latest Letters to the Editor On The Dominicans (2nd & 3rd Letter):
http://www.sffaith.com/ed/letters/2005letters/0503lett.htm

Then Dan Noyes of ABC news did the following reports:
(Be sure to click "watch this report" to see the video footage)

Oakland Seminary Housing Sex Offender Priests:
http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/news/iteam/112804_iteam_seminary.html

Outrage Over Sex Offenders At Seminary:
http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/news/iteam/112904_iteam_seminary.html


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Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic columnist. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.

 
 

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