San Jose: New Revelations and Frustrations in Pedophile Case at Saint Frances Cabrini
By Julia Prodis Sulek and Frances Cabrini
Marin Independent Journal
November 28, 2012
|Mark Gurries (KGO-TV)|
SAN JOSE -- As the Saint Frances Cabrini community tries to move forward from a recent uproar after a convicted pedophile was allowed to volunteer at a parish festival last month, new revelations and controversies continue to plague the Catholic church and school.
A lawsuit filed a week before the parish festival surfaced this week adding a second alleged victim from Saint Frances Cabrini of a former priest, the Rev. Don Flickinger. He lived at the church rectory there from 1995 to 2006 and was already the subject of another lawsuit filed last year accusing him of abusing a former student there.
The parish Men's Club scheduled an "emergency meeting" Tuesday night to discuss "frustrations" about recent events and concerns about the resignation last week of the parish priest, who was criticized for his handling of the festival furor but still loved by many in the parish.
Also on Tuesday, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith made herself available at the school to answer questions from concerned parents. And on Wednesday evening, an open forum for parents organized by the Diocese and school will begin at 6:30 p.m. In a staff bulletin, Principal Jane Daigle told teachers and staff, "I do not expect any of you to attend unless you have a deep desire for more drama in your life. Please pray for us."
No one answered the school office phone at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday for comment.
The recent tumult at Saint Frances Cabrini school and parish
just off Camden Avenue began at the parish fiesta Oct. 6, when parents and a former student recognized Mark Gurries working the sound system as a registered sex offender. Gurries, 51, whose wife is a former teacher at the school, had been convicted in 2010 and was sentenced to a year in jail for "lewd and lascivious acts" on a minor under 14. The victim was a relative.
A five-hour standoff between parents and the parish priest, Rev. Lieu Vu, ensued when Vu told the group that Gurries had a
letter of permission from the Diocese of San Jose to volunteer there and he should be forgiven. Gurries was finally escorted off campus by a sheriff's deputy who was working security.
Last week, Bishop Patrick McGrath apologized to the congregation, saying the letter was a mistake and a "failure at the diocese level." The person who wrote the letter, an employee in the personnel department, wrote it without authorization, he said, and was no longer with the diocese. A couple of days later, Vu resigned as parish priest, which has sparked its own controversy.
Anne MacLellan, who put four children through Saint Frances Cabrini and has been a member of the parish with her husband for more than two decades, said Monday that the wrong person is being punished.
"I think the diocese is using Father Vu because they want a scapegoat, and I'm ticked off about that," MacLellan said. "They ought to come forward and say who wrote that letter. I'm furious about this."
Vu may be "a bit naive," she said. "He probably should have been tougher and said 'get the hell off the property,' but he was trying to be gentle, a shepherd."
His mistake is certainly a forgivable offense, she said, compared with the allegations against Flickinger, whom her children knew during their school years at Cabrini.
Tim Hale, a Santa Barbara lawyer representing three alleged molestation victims of Flickinger -- two boys at Saint Frances Cabrini in the late 1990s and early 2000s and one girl from Sacred Heart School in Saratoga in the early 1990s -- said the Gurries and Flickinger cases show a troubling trend.
"It's a continuing pattern of conduct of being aware of inserting predators into environments where children are present without any kind of warning to parents, teachers, parishioners and others responsible for the children's well-being," Hale said Monday.
The Diocese of San Jose said it had not been served with the latest lawsuit about Flickinger, filed Sept. 28, and had no comment about the new allegations that he molested a second boy. Instead, it re-sent a statement it issued last year when the first case against Flickinger arose.
"Based upon letters of good standing from the Diocese of Fresno, he was allowed to live in diocesan rectories while he cared for his ailing mother," the statement said. "He is not and has never been a priest of the Diocese of San Jose."
Although Flickinger spent much of his career in Fresno, he served at Sacred Heart in Saratoga in the early 1990s, hearing confessions and preparing second-graders for their First Communions, before moving to Saint Frances Cabrini. In March, a 26-year-old woman filed a lawsuit accusing Flickinger of abusing her as a second-grader at Sacred Heart.