Local Church Conducts Apology Service for Monsignor�s Sexual Misconduct
Bishop Asks Forgiveness for Late Vincent Breen in Fremont
By Angelica Avila
May 19, 2005
The head of the Roman Catholic Dio�cese of Oakland, Bishop Allen Vigneron, asked for pardon from the Holy Spirit parishoners of Fremont on Tuesday for the sexual misconduct of the late Monsignor Vincent Ignatius Breen.
It marked the first time the diocese of Oakland has publicly acknowledged Breen's sexual misconduct.
Vigneron asked the families of victims, and the community of Holy Spirit in par�ticular, to forgive the church for harm done to children.
"I apologize with all my heart for the abuse of the little ones," Vigneron said. "I apologize and ask for pardon to this com�munity in particular for the betrayal of your trust by the parish priest Vincent Breen."
Vigneron also said the Catholic Church should be more conscious about its chil�dren so that other incidents, like the ones involving Breen, do not occur.
Breen was assigned to the Holy Spirit Parish in 1953, and served there for 29 years. The youngest of 10 children, Breen was born in San Francisco in 1911, studied theology and philosophy at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, and in 1936 began his priest�hood in Stockton. Two years later he moved to Washington, D.C., where he attended the Catholic University of America.
Breen returned to the Bay Area, and from 1942 to 1944, served as assistant superintendent of the San Francisco Catholic schools.
According to a 1981 police investiga�tion, Breen molested at least eight girls between the ages 7 to 14. The sexual abuse included French kissing and digital penetration.
Breen left Holy Spirit in 1982 to avoid criminal charges. He died in 1986. Authori�ties say the true number of victims may never be known, but some believe he may have molested more than 100 children.
Nearly 20 years after his death, many parishioners refuse to believe Breen did anything inappropriate.
"I believe he was innocent. He loved kids. I never saw him behaving incor�rectly," said Rose Butchman, a Holy Spirit parishioner.
Supporters point to Breen's accom�plishments, including expansion of the church.
But Vigneron's apology included recognition that the diocese did not act quickly enough on reports of misconduct by Breen. That, Vigneron said, should never be forgotten.
"It's possible to forgive — not to for�get, but to forgive — and to move toward healing, and under the sign of the cross I asked for forgiveness," Vigneron said.
Tuesday's apology service ended with a prayer by Sister Barbara Flannery, chan�cellor of the diocese of Oakland.
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