Levada Takes Heat over Abuse Inquiry
Panel Member Resigns, Says Church Suppressed Results
By Don Lattin
San Francisco Chronicle
November 12, 2004
The founding chairman of a panel formed by San Francisco's Roman Catholic Archdiocese to look into allegations of priestly child abuse has resigned from the board, accusing church leaders of "deception, manipulation and control" for refusing to release the investigation's results.
James Jenkins, one of six members of the Independent Review Board and its chairman until last December, said Archbishop William Levada has blocked the release of the panel's findings on sexual-abuse allegations involving 40 priests.
At least nine of those priests have agreed to refrain from "public ministry," the archdiocese said Thursday without identifying them.
"There has been no public acknowledgement that these accusations were made and whether they were sustained or not sustained," Jenkins said in an interview.
In his resignation letter to Levada, Jenkins said the archdiocese panel could soon be reduced to "an elaborate public relations scheme." He said he doubts the church could restore public trust "given its present leadership and the state of its corruption."
Levada appointed Jenkins in 2001 to head the review board in response to a series of child molestation scandals involving the Catholic Church in Northern California. Jenkins, a Catholic layman and clinical psychologist practicing in the East Bay, served more than two years as chairman and remained active on the board until his resignation Oct. 15.
The archdiocese said Levada was traveling and referred calls to spokesman Maurice Healy, who said Jenkins' views "are contrary to other review board members. He wants the names of alleged perpetrators released, and other board members do not."
The board's chairwoman, Suzanne Giraudo, did not return a phone call seeking comment. "One of the desires of the board is not to engage in media conversations," Healy said.
According to Healy, the review board has investigated 18 of the 40 priests accused of child molestation over five decades. In addition to the nine who agreed to remove their collars, five have appealed to the Vatican to remain active priests and four were cleared, Healy said.
Healy said he does not know what happened with the other 22 priests named in the original 40. Some have died, some were not under the archdiocese's control, and others have dropped out of sight, he said.
Jenkins said releasing the names of priests that the board believed had credible accusations against them "would encourage other victims to come forward with their stories."
"Usually, people who do these things have multiple offenses, usually with multiple victims," Jenkins said. "The rule of thumb is there are seven more victims for every one who comes forward."
'Culture of silence'
But instead of working with "openness and transparency," Jenkins said, the archdiocese's review board has bought into "the culture of silence that gave the church hierarchy permission to be complicit in the criminal sexual abuse of children."
In his letter to Levada, Jenkins wrote, "Sadly, it would seem the independence of the (board) has been compromised by disingenuous actions of deception, manipulation and control — all the false idols that gave birth to the clergy sex abuse scandal."
Healy acknowledged that some other dioceses have been more forthcoming in releasing the names of accused priests. But he said most local board members feel that the church needs a "uniform national policy" on the release of names.
Such a policy would have to come from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and its National Review Board for the protection of children.
Next week, at their annual meeting in Washington, D.C., the nation's Catholic bishops will welcome five new members to their 14-member board, including Joseph Russoniello, the dean of San Francisco Law School and a former U.S. attorney.
"My concern as a lawyer is balancing the protection of the public with due process for the rights of those accused," Russoniello said. "My experience as a prosecutor tells me it's easy to make an accusation — especially from a deranged, angry, vengeful person striking out against an authority figure."
34 priests named in suits
Thirty-four priests in the San Francisco Archdiocese have been named in civil lawsuits seeking damages from the archdiocese under the provisions of a 2002 state law that lifted the statute of limitations on claims against the church.
Attorneys for the archdiocese and individual priests have gone to great lengths to keep many of those names secret and have thwarted attempts by The Chronicle, the New York Times and other media outlets to obtain access to court records.
In his resignation letter to Levada, Jenkins said it is "crucial that the archdiocese not be seen as having adopted tough, aggressive, give-no-quarter legal strategies against the claims of survivors, which in the process betray the church's true pastoral identity."
Ed Gleason, the Northern California director of Voice of the Faithful, a national organization of lay Catholics, said it is essential that the archdiocese review board remain "independent and forthright."
Church leaders, Gleason said, "do not like independent oversight."
"They would love a rubber stamp, but they didn't get it here, and they didn't get it nationally."
Gleason said Jenkins' experience is reminiscent of that of former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, whom the bishops named as the founding chairman of their National Review Board in 2002.
Keating resigned last year after comparing unnamed bishops resisting the board investigations to "La Cosa Nostra."
The bishops established their board during the height of a national scandal on priestly pedophilia and coverups of those crimes by church leaders in Boston and across the country. At their meeting in Dallas that year, the bishops collectively encouraged themselves to set up lay-dominated review boards in their dioceses.
To the dismay of victims' advocates, San Francisco church leaders kept the names of the local review board members secret until the summer of 2003.
Levada announced a change in that policy in a July 11, 2003, article in Catholic San Francisco, the official organ of the archdiocese.
"To know who they are and their good reputation can only be a source of satisfaction and reassurance or all of us," the archbishop said.
Officials with the Archdiocese of San Francisco say its Independent Review Board has looked at the evidence against 18 priests accused of child molestation in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties. Nine have agreed to refrain from "public ministry," five have appealed to the Vatican and four were cleared, church officials say. At least 10 of those priests have been named in previous articles in The Chronicle, but the archdiocese has refused to say which ones have been cleared, suspended or have appealed to Rome. Listed below are archdiocesan priests who faced criminal charges but were released later after a California Supreme Court ruling on the statute of limitations.
— The Rev. John Heaney, senior chaplain for the San Francisco Police Department, was charged with molesting a boy in the 1960s.
— The Rev. Gregory Ingels, an expert on canon law who helped the church implement its "zero tolerance" policy for abusive clerics, was charged with molesting a teenage boy in 1972.
— The Rev. Austin Peter Keegan, a former San Francisco priest, was charged with molesting two Bay Area children in the 1960s.
— Monsignor Patrick O'Shea, a former San Francisco priest, was charged with multiple counts of molestation dating back to the 1960s.
— The Rev. Milton T. Walsh, former pastor of San Francisco's landmark St. Mary's Cathedral, was charged with molesting a 13-year-old boy in 1984
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