Oakland Bishop Meets with Sex Abuse Survivors about Berkeley Pastor's Case

CBS 5 [Oakland CA]
March 3, 2005

Diocese of Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron met today with a group of sex-abuse survivors to discuss their concerns about how the diocese is handling the investigation of a popular Berkeley pastor who's been accused of abusing a parishioner.

David Clohessy, the executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the meeting was productive in that he believes Vigneron understands the alleged "damage that's been done" by Father George Crespin of St. Joseph the Worker and Crespin's supporters.

Crespin, 69, retired in early February after being accused of sexual misconduct in incidents 30 years ago.

Clohessy said SNAP members asked to meet with Bishop Vigneron because they feared that diocese officials were backing off their investigation of Crespin under pressure from Crespin and hundreds of supporters at his church.

But Clohessy said Vigneron assured him that he agrees that Crespin "lied" when he said in a letter read to parishioners that the alleged sexual abuse victim was "a young adult."

Clohessy said Vigneron acknowledged that the alleged victim was a child at the time.

Diocese spokesman Father Mark Wiesner said he doesn't know the specifics of what was discussed at today's meeting at diocese offices.

But he said Vigneron told him earlier today that he would assure SNAP members that the diocese still takes all sexual abuse allegations seriously, isn't "going soft," and continues to follow a mandate by Catholic bishops to place priests on administrative leave while sexual abuse investigations are conducted.

In his letter read by priests to church parishioners last month, Crespin denied the allegations against him and questioned the motive of his accuser, saying he's convinced it was an effort to get money from the church. Crespin said he's confident his name will be cleared.

Before the meeting today, Clohessy criticized Vigneron for "allowing Father Crespin to make harsh and insensitive comments" in a church forum.

Clohessy said Crespin's letter was "inappropriate" and church officials shouldn't have given him a forum to "slander and malign the motives" of his accuser.

Clohessy said, "The Bishop has to create a climate that encourages victims of sexual abuse to come forward and get help."


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