Oakland Seminary Housing Sex Offender Priests
ABC 7 [Oakland CA]
Downloaded November 30, 2004
Nov. 28 — In all the controversy over child abuse by Catholic priests, one issue really has not been explored. What does the church do with priests who've molested children? Where do they go? The ABC7 I-Team has a disturbing answer for people living in an upscale Oakland neighborhood.
The I-Team has learned that one order of priests has decided to place its sex offenders at a seminary in Oakland. And, church officials haven't told the neighbors or the schools nearby.
If you attend one of the daily services at St. Albert's seminary in the Rockridge neighborhood, you probably wouldn't expect to be sitting next to several sex offenders. But, that's often the case. The Dominican Order of Catholic Priests has decided to send its members who've abused children across the western United States to live at St. Albert's.
Former seminarian: "I think it's embarrassing for the church, it's a very sad statement on what can happen when people abuse power, when they abuse authority."
This former seminarian attended a meeting two years ago when St. Albert's officials announced sex offenders would be moving in, and that the young men training to be priests should tell no one – not their families, not the media.
Dan Noyes: "What message does that send to the seminarians?"
Former seminarian: "I felt very clearly that they were sending a message that we were to now keep the family secrets."
The head of the Dominican's Western Province confirms that seven priests who admit sexually abusing children now live at St. Albert's and in a house nearby. Their victims include young children and teens, boys and girls. The incidents happened as long as 30 years ago, and as recently as 1999.
Father Roberto Corral: "These guys have been through their therapy, and working with their counselors and therapists, we are reasonably sure they will not re-offend."
Father Roberto Corral says none of the priests was prosecuted for sexual abuse of minors, but that the Dominicans have paid settlements to most of the victims. Corral says his duty now is to help the priests lead fulfilling lives.
Father Roberto Corral: "What I try to keep in my mind is how would I treat a family member who had done something in the past that was not good that was immoral and/or illegal."
Corral tells us he couldn't allow the priests to work around children in parishes or schools, so he had to move them to St. Albert's seminary. But, there are plenty of kids around St. Albert's. They live in this neighborhood. They go to school just four doors down, here at Claremont Middle School. And, there are several other schools in the surrounding blocks.
Pre-schools, elementary schools, daycare centers… kids are everywhere in Rockridge. And, no one from St. Albert's or the Oakland Diocese told the schools or the families living on the block about their plan to move sex offenders into the neighborhood.
Lauren Larson: "I think it's very scary, I'm certainly worried about the safety of children whose families aren't aware."
Tom Morabito: "I'm concerned, this is very unsettling to me."
It's especially troubling for Tom Morabito who owns several pre-schools in the area. He's a long-time financial supporter of the Dominicans.
Tom Morabito: "I know neighbors who are supportive of the Dominicans who live on Chabot Road, right on Chabot Road, good catholic families and they have a right to know."
Corral says the neighbors have nothing to worry about, that he keeps an eye on the sex offenders. But, he also admits they are allowed to walk the neighborhood unescorted, even to check out a car and go for rides alone.
Dan Noyes: "And do you somehow keep track of them when they check out a car?"
Father Roberto Corral: "Really, most of the guys, we're not really worried about that kind of detail in their safety plan."
Dan McNevin, SNAP: "How can you assure not just the catholic population but society that these men are somehow not dangerous now?"
A spokesman for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests is concerned we'll see a cluster of child abuse complaints around the seminary in 20 years – that's how long young victims often take to confront what's happened and speak out.
Dan McNevin, SNAP: "It's dangerous, it's a, this is like having a toxic bomb in your neighborhood that might go off."
Father Roberto Corral: "My experience, most of these guys are delightful men, again, we're all imperfect and they simply happen to have done something that was very foolish at one point in their lives."
The other important issue is those seven sex offenders make up a third of the priests at the seminary, and they have a vote on which young men will become priests. They're helping decide the future of the church. By the way, Father Corral tells us the sex offenders are there with the blessing of Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron. His spokesman says the bishop's out of town, and would offer no comment.
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