Background on Sexual Misconduct Issue
Issued by Western Dominican Province
ABC7news.com [San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose]
April 7, 2005
It is important to note that at least two of the sources quoted in various media are believed to be ex-Dominican students who were dismissed from the Dominican Order for good cause and who we believe are now disaffected. These sources would not have had access to most of the details about the seven friars. Therefore, we are releasing this information to provide an accurate picture about this issue in the sincere hope that it will result in greater insight and peace for you, our neighbors.
There are currently six men accused of sexual abuse of minors living in the Western Dominican Province's communities in the Rockridge area. In each case, when we learned of an alleged instance of abuse, we took immediate steps to ensure that no children were in danger, and undertook a thorough investigation to determine whether the allegation was credible. Having completed that investigation, we removed each of the men from public ministry, meaning they do not celebrate Mass publicly, nor do they have any interaction with young people.
The allegations concern events that occurred between 20 and 45 years ago. All of these friars have received or continue to receive counseling by experts in the field; Eugene Merlin of Oakland, California, in particular has worked with the Province in the area of sexual offending since 1991. All are at least 65 years old. All but one lived in the Bay Area prior to being moved to Rockridge—the other lived outside of California. None of the six friars is a serial or "preferential" pedophile. No criminal charges were ever filed with regard to any of these men, although the police were notified in several cases.
One other Dominican friar accused of sexual misconduct with post-pubescent and adult females—who was restricted from leaving the residence without being accompanied by a Dominican in final vows—left the Province in February 2005 without permission and is believed to be living with his family outside of the Bay Area. We notified the appropriate authorities, both civil and ecclesiastical, that he had departed the Province. He is no longer under our supervision and we are taking steps to dismiss him from the Order.
We have no legal authority to place physical restraints on the movements of any of our friars. The restrictions we impose on a friar flow from the vow of obedience made by each man. If a brother chooses to disobey, we may, in turn, decide to expel him from the Order. Should we decide to do this, however, the friar would be without any supervision by us. We believe this is not the most responsible option; we believe that it is safer to keep these men out of public ministry and provide them with supervision and support than to expel them from the Order and leave them unsupervised.
The levels of restriction on the six men still in residence in Rockridge vary based on the type of alleged misconduct, the number of allegations, the number of years since the alleged misconduct occurred, the friars' history of therapy, and their prognosis. All of them have been removed from public ministry.
The six friars have lived at either Siena House or Saint Albert Priory between two and 13 years. We chose to place them in Rockridge because no public ministry is attached to our houses here, which means that the friars have no regular, institutional contact with the public. Because there are so many Dominicans in these two houses—more than 40 total—the men in question have the supervision and support they would not have elsewhere within the Province. Such supervision and support is considered essential by mental health professionals to keep offenders from re-offending.
Important Terminology Distinctions
To have a clear understanding of this issue, it is critical to recognize some important distinctions regarding clinical characterizations of sexual misconduct. Experts in the field recognize a significant difference between pre- and post-pubescent molestation. They also recognize very important differences between "situational" and "preferential" pedophiles. By "situational" pedophiles, we mean those who offend against prepubescent children with whom they have had some relationship. Such offenses may be limited to one child only. "Preferential" pedophiles are those who seek out prepubescent children whom they may know only casually or not at all for their sexual gratification and are typically repeat offenders.
Those who molest youngsters under the age of 14—"pre-pubescent children"—are characterized as pedophiles. Those who molest youngsters 14 years or older—"post-pubescent children"—are characterized as ephebophiles.
The alleged offenses of six of the seven friars were with post-pubescent children; thus, these six are not pedophiles (a pathological condition noted in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders IV), but rather ephebophiles (not listed in the DSM-IV). Whereas the rehabilitation of "preferential" pedophiles is clinically questionable, the prognosis of ephebophiles is considerably more positive, as is that of "situational" pedophiles. (An example of "situational" pedophilia is the case, discussed below, of one alleged incident with a pre-pubescent child by one friar that occurred 45 years ago with no repeat offenses by that friar since that time.)
Based on the advice of experts in the fields of mental health and sexual misconduct, the character of the accused friars' alleged offenses, their histories of therapy, and the elapsed time since the alleged offenses, we judge that none of the friars poses a danger to the children of our neighborhood.
What follows is detailed information regarding our Dominican brothers that we believe will be helpful. While we are providing you with this level of detail, please keep in mind that these men, as human beings, maintain basic rights to privacy and freedom from harassment and slander.
The Allegations in Particular
Father Mark O'Leary
In this case, the allegations concern sexual relations with older male high school students occurring 25 or more years ago. This friar has sought and received extensive psychological assessment and counseling, and has been judged rehabilitated by two independent therapists. He is employed on site, but we have not returned this friar to public ministry, nor is there any prospect that we will ever do so. He does not have contact with youngsters.
Father Dominic De Domenico
In this case the allegations involved a manipulative relationship with a girl beginning at age 15 and the crossing of sexual boundaries (kissing, fondling, but no allegations of sexual intercourse) beginning at age 16 and continuing into adulthood. These events occurred 29 years ago. In this case, our Sexual Misconduct Committee recommended his return to ministry based on his comprehensive psychological assessment and unblemished history since the subject relationship. Despite this assessment, we have not returned him to public ministry, nor is there any prospect that we will ever do so. He is employed on site. He does not have contact with youngsters.
Brother Peter Yost
In this case, the allegations involved inappropriate physical contact on one occasion with a boy around the age of 12 some 45 years ago. This is the only allegation that ever came to light against this individual (even after a thorough investigation by a private investigator who was hired independently from the Province). The friar in question is elderly, in poor health, and unable to drive. He has been judged to be no danger to children by a full clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who is his therapist. This friar never had a public ministry and there is no prospect that he ever will have public ministry. He does not have contact with youngsters.
Father Leo Tubbs
This case involved an allegation of non-genital touching over clothing of a 14 to 17 year old male 20 years ago. Because of some other instances of boundary violations with adults and because of disobedience issues since that time not relating to sexual misconduct (including accusations of an unauthorized trip to Thailand), this friar is now not permitted to leave the residence unattended or without permission. He has no public ministry, nor does he have contact with youngsters.
The trip to Thailand that this friar took was in order to visit the family of a friend who was undergoing investiture as a Buddhist monk. While in Thailand, the friar visited with his friend and his friend's family during the family's celebration of the monk's investiture into the Buddhist religious life. There is no indication that the friar engaged in inappropriate activity while in Thailand.
Father Terence Reilly
In this case, the friar has four allegations ranging from 25 to 35 years ago that involve inappropriate touching, suggestive conversation, provision of alcohol to minors, and voyeurism with males between the ages of 14 and 17. This friar does not drive or generally leave his residence. He has no public ministry nor any prospect of returning to public ministry, nor does he have contact with youngsters.
Father Edmund Ryan
This case involves a single accusation 22 years ago of inappropriate touching over clothing with a 16-year-old male. After reviewing his case and history of treatment and conduct since the incident, the Sexual Misconduct Committee recommended his return to ministry. Despite this assessment, we have not returned this friar to public ministry and there is no prospect that he will be returned to public ministry. He does not have contact with youngsters.
Procedures for Ensuring Future Safety of Children and Young People
We thoroughly updated our sexual misconduct policy over two years ago and we strictly abide by it. We created a Sexual Misconduct Committee comprised of two Dominicans and three lay people with professional licenses in the behavioral sciences, education, and law. One lay member is the principal of a large, 650 student, K-8 grammar school in Antioch, and is the mother of three children ages 2-8. Another is a Harvard-trained attorney in San Francisco. The third is a clinical psychologist on staff in the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department at Stanford University Medical School; she teaches psychotherapy to psychiatric residents and psychology graduate students, supervises trainees, and sees patients in the Stanford Behavioral Medicine Clinic. We would welcome a qualified neighbor to sit on this Committee.
We have had in place for the past year and a half an exhaustive process for screening candidates for entry into the Dominican Order in our Province. This process includes numerous interviews, background checks, and a comprehensive psychological assessment by carefully selected and eminently qualified clinical psychologists who are expert in assessment.
We are in the process of obtaining accreditation with an independent, nationally recognized organization that works with religious and secular groups to create safe environments for children, as well as elderly and vulnerable adults called Praesidium Services. Praesidium is built upon more than two decades of research and experience in institutional abuse prevention, psychology, law and human resource management.
As part of our accreditation process, all of the friars in the Province—including those in initial formation and those who are retired—will attend a multi-day workshop about sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. The content of this workshop includes understanding sexual abuse, the types of sexual offenders, the nature of boundary violations, appropriate and inappropriate displays of affection in ministry, and what to do when someone reports abuse. Additionally, most dioceses require each friar to attend additional workshops in the respective diocese where the friar ministers.
This accreditation is not for the purpose of creating a residence for people who have sexually abused. Rather, it is to educate the Dominicans throughout the province and create and maintain a safe and secure environment and community.
Importantly, as suggested by some of our neighbors, we have upgraded the computer systems at our Rockridge communities with both content filtering (which prevents users from visiting websites with inappropriate content) and content monitoring (which permits our IT administrator to view all websites visited by all users and email sent and received by all users) to greatly reduce the likelihood of inappropriate use of computers.
We recognize that there may be additional questions from our neighbors after reading the above information. If there is additional information that our neighbors wish to be provided with, anyone with questions should feel free to send a letter to the above address or to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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