Bishop Reveals Sex Case Claims
The Sacramento Diocese Has Paid $1.3 Million, He Says.
By Dorothy Korber and Jennifer Garza
April 12, 2002
--The Sacramento Diocese has paid out $1.3 million over the past 30 years to settle claims of child sexual abuse against its priests, Bishop William K. Weigand said Thursday.
During a wide-ranging interview with The Bee, Weigand provided some details about allegations of sexual abuse of minors by local Roman Catholic priests but declined to identify all the priests involved.
He also discussed new efforts under way to deal actively with the issue of priest sexual abuse, including plans to meet with parishioners over the next several months and hold workshops with priests and other church workers.
Weigand stressed that the diocese would report any new allegations of abuse involving children still under 18.
"We've turned over everything we're required to," the bishop said. He noted that he is not required to reveal to authorities older accusations in which the victims came forward as adults.
Church leaders in other dioceses, however, have released such information to law enforcement. On Thursday, the San Francisco diocese became the latest, saying it would cooperate with a request from the district attorney to turn over 75 years' worth of personnel records.
Weigand said he would cooperate with law enforcement officials on old cases if asked.
Still, he maintained that in all cases in which there was credible evidence of abuse by a priest, the priest has been removed from active duty and is not a further danger to children.
"I am comfortable that these matters have been handled in a way to protect victims and to bring the perpetrators to a level of health," he said. "We think we've taken good measures to avoid any further victimization."
Weigand made a distinction between predatory pedophiles - those who seek out children under age 12 - and priests who abuse older youths. He said the allegations in the diocese in recent decades have involved this latter group, and that "most experts consider that substantial healing can be achieved in these perpetrators. The true pedophile is much less likely to be cured."
"The first care concern," he added, "is for any victim. We offer pastoral counseling and medical assistance.
"With the priest, we get an evaluation and follow up with heavy-duty counseling so that they no longer have the same inclinations. We do not simply put them out in the world."
Lori Greene, a Sacramento County deputy district attorney who supervises a special assault and child abuse unit, questioned whether the diocese is in a position to determine whether an abuser is cured.
"It's important to report these things because any child molester in the community is a danger to all children," Greene said. "Even though he may be elderly or no longer a priest, there are still numerous outlets for him to find children.
"In any case, we would like an opportunity to determine for ourselves if criminal charges can be sustained."
Weigand's comments came against the backdrop of a national crisis in the American Catholic Church, with almost daily revelations of clergy sex abuse dating back decades. In Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law is under increasing pressure to resign after new allegations surfaced this week that he knowingly transferred a second pedophile priest from parish to parish.
Last week, Weigand announced that over the past three decades, 14 priests in the Sacramento Diocese have been accused of sexually abusing minors. The accusations could not be substantiated in three of the cases and those priests remain on duty, he said. Of the remaining 11, two died, seven abandoned the priesthood or fled the jurisdiction, and two retired.
One retiree, Weigand said, is William Hold, formerly of Holy Rosary Parish in Woodland. According to the 2001 diocesan directory, he now lives in Oregon.
Diocesan officials told Holy Rosary parishioners Sunday that a complaint had been made against Hold three years ago and asked for any others with complaints to come forward.
The alleged abuse took place approximately 20 years ago, Weigand said. "This was a proactive attempt to see if there is anybody else," he said.
Weigand said he decided to go public with Hold's name because Holy Rosary had not been notified of the allegation. He said this announcement was the first of many steps to open the issue of abuse for public discussion.
The bishop outlined a plan to hold a series of "town hall" meetings, where Catholics can vent their feelings and ask questions. On Sunday, two meetings will be held at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in downtown Sacramento: at 11 a.m. in English and 2:30 p.m. in Spanish.
Weigand also advised any victims of abuse to call the new toll-free hot line, (866) 777-9133. Nancy Milton, who monitors the calls in her new position as complainant advocate, said so far about five or six callers have made allegations that will be investigated by diocesan officials.
Milton is trained as a lawyer and will not counsel abuse victims, Weigand said, but investigate complaints.
Thursday marked the first time the Sacramento Diocese revealed publicly how much it has spent to settle claims of clergy sexual misconduct. In addition to the $1.3 million for cases involving minors, Weigand said, an additional $450,000 was spent for claims by people who were adults when the alleged abuse took place.
Most of the money was paid by insurance, said the bishop, who emphasized that the settlements did not come from the ongoing $50 million Capital Campaign.
Weigand also disclosed that the Rev. Michael Walsh is on leave. The Bee reported last month that the diocese had reached confidential settlements with two men who accused Walsh of sexually assaulting them, one in the 1970s, the other in the 1980s. Walsh denies both allegations.
He was removed last week as a priest in residence at St. John Vianney Parish in Rancho Cordova after parents complained.
"Father Walsh is under intense public scrutiny and he's dealing with a lot of stress," Weigand said. "He's asked for some time off, which I have granted."
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