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  Walsh Says 4 More Priests Were Accused of Sex Abuse
SR Bishop Reports 19 More Children Victimized, $1 Million More Paid out

By Guy Kovner
The Press Democrat [California, Santa Rosa]
January 14, 2004

Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh has told Catholics that the scandal of child molestation by North Coast priests is broader than previously disclosed, with four more priests accused of misconduct, 19 more children victimized and $1 million more paid in settlements than the church had admitted earlier.

In an article in the diocese newsletter, Walsh said 16 priests have been accused of sexual misconduct, $8.6 million has been paid out in settlements and 59 underage victims have been identified in a scandal that spans four decades.

Walsh reported figures that the diocese has provided to a national survey ordered by U.S. bishops on the scope of sexual abuse by priests and payouts by the church.

The information was contained in a lengthy article on the church's response to the scandal in the winter edition of the North Coast Catholic. The newsletter was mailed last month to Catholic households and distributed at the diocese's 42 churches with 150,000 members from Petaluma to the Oregon border.

Walsh refused Tuesday to answer questions regarding his new revelations or comment on the scandal that has convulsed the North Coast diocese.

"He doesn't want to get drawn into a line of fire over what he has written," said Deirdre Frontczak, the bishop's spokeswoman.

Walsh has not given an interview on issues of priest misconduct or victim concerns since the U.S. bishops' national conference during the summer of 2002 in Dallas.

The number of priests accused of sexual abuse has grown since the mid-1990s, and church officials say none of the priests serves in the Santa Rosa Diocese today.

Victims have identified six priests in public disclosures, lawsuits and prosecutions.

The diocese reported in 2002 to the Sonoma County district attorney that another six priests faced credible allegations of sexual abuse going back 15 to 30 years, but it did not identify them and said they were no longer in the diocese.

The additional four priests were added to the list after a review of diocese records since 2002. They include the late Rev. Patrick Gleeson, accused in a victim's lawsuit last year, and three unnamed priests -- one dead, one defrocked and one a former visiting priest from Latin America, church officials said Tuesday.

Dan Galvin, diocese attorney, said he would not identify any other accused priests because Walsh "respects their privacy."

Galvin, asked whether church members had a right to know the identity of priests accused of misconduct, said there is no "compelling reason."

"They are not ministering in the diocese," he said. "They are no threat to the children."

Frontczak said the only one of the 16 accused of sexual misconduct who still could be in ministry is the visiting priest from Latin America, who now is assigned to the archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

Walsh's statements in the newsletter were based on the nationwide study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The national report is to be released Feb. 27.

Bishops have the option of releasing study results for their dioceses, and so far bishops of at least four others -- Orange County; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Md.; and Allentown, Pa. -- have done so.

The church in Orange County released the names of 15 of the 16 priests facing credible allegations of sexual abuse, and the Washington Archdiocese identified the 16 priests who are still living on its list of 26 accused molesters, according to news reports.

Of the six North Coast priests publicly accused of molesting children since 1994, three are dead and the other three have been defrocked.

A seventh priest, the Rev. Anthony Ross, accused of molesting an Illinois man two decades ago, has been suspended from clerical duties and the outcome of his case is awaiting action by the Vatican.

Galvin said the tally of sexual abuse victims in the Santa Rosa Diocese rose from 40 to 59 in recent years as new lawsuits were filed, most of them alleging abuse by former priests Gary Timmons, Don Kimball and Austin Peter Keegan, each of whom has been defrocked.

The other three publicly accused priests -- John Rogers, Vincent O'Neill and Patrick Gleeson -- are dead.

Payments to abuse victims and legal costs have risen from $7.4 million to $8.6 million as cases were settled and new cases filed, Galvin said.

The bishop's article said there were 10 lawsuits pending against the diocese, but two claims filed last month have increased the number to 12.

 
 

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