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  20 Local Priests on List Diocese Gives Sb Police Results of Its Child Abuse Investigation

By Joe Nelson
San Bernardino Sun [San Bernardino CA]
April 29, 2002

Four Roman Catholic priests still serving Inland Empire parishes are among 20 priests involved in child-abuse allegations on a list given by San Bernardino Diocese officials to police.

Their names were not released.

"This was a full disclosure,' the Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the diocese, which covers San Bernardino and Riverside counties, said Friday. "Bishop [Gerald] Barnes was adamant this be a full disclosure. To the best of our knowledge, this represents all priests with recorded allegations.'

One of the 22 allegations against the priests occurred in 1957 and the latest was in 1995.

None involve the Rev. Paul Shanley, who served at St. Anne Catholic Church in San Bernardino as a supply priest between 1990 and 1993, Lincoln said.

A supply priest says Mass on weekends and performs other duties such as baptisms and weddings when needed.

The Boston Archdiocese transferred Shanley to San Bernardino in 1990, informing the San Bernardino Diocese that Shanley was a priest in good standing.

But Boston Diocese officials didn't disclose they had in their files reports of Shanley advocating sexual relations between men and boys and sexual-abuse allegations dating back more than 40 years.

The San Bernardino Diocese disclosure Thursday to police caps a two-month investigation by two bishop-appointed priests who reviewed hundreds of priest files at the diocesan pastoral center, Lincoln said.

One priest on the list given police was investigated in 1993 but charges were dropped. He left the country, Lincoln said.

Two other priests were investigated by police, one in the 1970s and the other in the 1990s, and exonerated, he said.

One priest, Rev. Gustavo Benson, pleaded guilty in 1987 to molesting two altar boys and was sentenced to probation. He is now reportedly a pastor at St. San Judas Ta Deo Church in Ensenada, Mexico.

Lincoln said the San Bernardino Diocese informed the Tijuana Diocese of Benson's criminal background when he was transferred to the Ensenada parish.

"We wrote those letters ... [to the Tijuana Diocese] very promptly,' Lincoln said. "We have never knowingly shuffled a priest to another diocese or overseas without telling another diocese of a priest's criminal background.'

All but two of the alleged victims are between the ages of 13 and 18, Lincoln said.

Five of the allegations stem from the 1950s and 1960s. Ten priests garnered 12 sexual-abuse allegations in the 1970s and 1980s, and five allegations surfaced in the 1990s.

San Bernardino police Detective Gordon Jones said Friday an investigation into the referrals will begin Monday.

Some of the cases involve victims and priests in other jurisdictions, adding to the complexity of the investigation, which could take months, he said. He said some of the priests may be dead.

"The preliminary work is just now beginning,' he said. "A lot of that will be determining addresses to verify jurisdiction.

The tightening of the San Bernardino Diocese's sexual-abuse policy, which will be discussed in detail next week by Barnes, includes one provision that will place the San Bernardino Diocese "at the forefront' of dioceses nationwide "in terms of sexual-abuse policies,' Lincoln said.

"While not air-tight, it is very expansive and broad,' Lincoln said of the provision.

He would not elaborate.

The San Bernardino Diocese's sexual-abuse policy was implemented in 1992.

The Rev. Edward Ball, a former priest at Our Lady of Fatima Church and Our Lady of the Assumption Church, both in San Bernardino, pleaded guilty to molesting three altar boys in the 1970s.

In 2000, Ball pleaded no contest to molesting two brothers in the 1970s and 1980 when they were altar boys at Our Lady of the Assumption Church.

Lincoln said American Catholic leaders' decision at the Vatican to stop short of a zero-tolerance policy for abusive priests is not reflective of San Bernardino Diocese policy.

"While there is always forgiveness in the church, there is never a second chance in our diocese for a priest who has molested children,' Lincoln said.

When asked why the Diocese of San Bernardino wasn't more aggressive in handling sexual-abuse allegations in the past, Lincoln said that 20 or 30 years ago sexual-abuse allegations were not handled correctly.

He said the Ball scandal changed the way the local diocese operated.

"We adopted a sexual-abuse policy,' he said, "and that has been continually added to in the course of 10 years.'

 
 

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