Lawsuits Filed against Diocese of Oakland
By Angela Woodall
August 18, 2010
OAKLAND -- Survivors of sexual abuse by a local priest have filed two
lawsuits against the Diocese of Oakland and church officials who they
said allowed abuse by Stephen Kiesle to continue unchecked.
"The diocese could have stopped this," said Teresa Rosson, one
of the accusers. Rosson, who is Kiesle's stepdaughter, said he began sexually
abusing her from the time she was 11 years old until 2001. She is now
Instead, she said, "They delivered him into our churches with our
She said the abuse began when Kiesle served at St. Joseph's parish in
Pinole in 1972 -- the year he was ordained. There, the lawsuits argue,
he also abused several of the other plaintiffs, who chose to remain unnamed.
|Teresa Rosson holds up photos of herself
at age 11 and of Stephen Kiesle before a news conference in Oakland,
Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010. Rosson is one of the six women and
one man who allege they were sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest
and have filed two separate lawsuits against the Diocese of Oakland.
The lawsuits filed Wednesday claim that the diocese was negligent
in hiring and supervising Stephen Kiesle and failed to warn parents.
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
In 1978, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor lewd conduct charge
for tying up and molesting two boys, ages 11 and 12, at Our Lady of the
Rosary in Union City. He served there from 1975 to 1978.
He was put on three years' probation and sent to therapy. He was later
taken in by a pastor at St. Columba's in Oakland.
Then, from 1985 until 1988, Kiesle volunteered as a youth minister at
St. Joseph's in Pinole. He was removed after a worker at the Office of
Youth Ministry complained. By then, he was no longer a priest.
In 2002, Kiesle was arrested and charged with molesting three girls at
Santa Paula, a Fremont parish, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was
accused in a 2004 lawsuit of having molested a boy while at St.
Joseph's. Also that year, he was sent to prison for sexually abusing a
girl in 1995 at his Truckee vacation home. He now lives in a gated retirement
community in Walnut Creek with Rosson's mother. They married in 1982,
after he left the priesthood.
"Nobody protected me," Rosson said Wednesday during a news conference
in front of the Diocese headquarters to announce the lawsuits. The diocese
includes 84 parishes in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
Spokesman Mike Brown said the diocese removed Kiesle from his duties as
a priest in 1978. Afterward, Brown said, Kiesle "drifted away"
from the church. Letters from diocese officials supporting his withdrawal
from the priesthood portray him as a man with psychological, emotional
and sexual difficulties.
"It does seem clear, now, with hindsight, that quite probably Father
Kiesle should never have been ordained," Bishop John Cummins wrote
in 1981. He had reported Kiesle's behavior to the Vatican, including the
future pope, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, but nothing was done.
Cummins is named in the lawsuit because he did not report Kiesle to police.
In the past six decades, at least 64 Roman Catholic clergy members accused
of molesting children have served in nearly three-quarters of the parishes
in the Oakland Diocese -- five times more than the church has acknowledged
since the scandal erupted, according to a 2008 MediaNews analysis of court
and church records.
Many accused clergy members were ordered to get treatment and then shuffled
to multiple parishes for decades, not reported to law enforcement or removed
from ministry, the analysis found.
The Catholic Church knew Kiesle was a serial predator, said Joe Piscatelli,
a member of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. But church
officials thought they were above the law, he said. "A trail of poison
leads directly to the Vatican."