DIOCESE OF SANTA ROSA CA
Clergy scandal findings issued
By Ryan Kim firstname.lastname@example.org
In a December newsletter to parishioners, Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh said 16 of the 410 priests who have served in the diocese since 1962 have been involved in sexual misconduct with minors. The cases have involved 59 underage victims, including 10 who came forward in 2003. So far, $8.6 million has been paid in insurance and diocese funds to various victims.
This is the fullest account the diocese has released about its sexual misconduct problem. In 2002, the Santa Rosa Diocese said seven priests were involved in the growing scandal. Last year, that number was raised to 12 priests, with $7.4 million paid to victims.
The findings are a preview of a national survey scheduled to be released Feb. 27, which will quantify sexual conduct within the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Santa Rosa officials said they chose to come forward early with their numbers to show their concern about the scandal.
"I think it's an excellent step," said Santa Rosa Diocese spokeswoman Deirdre Frontczak. "We can't change the past, we can't alter the way things were done 20 to 30 years ago, but we can take steps to ensure this doesn't happen again."
Walsh was unavailable for comment.
The release of nationwide survey results on Feb. 27 will not break out numbers for an individual diocese. Four other dioceses, however, have followed Santa Rosa's example and released their individual figures: Washington D.C., Orange County, Baltimore and Allentown, Pa.
"Bishop Walsh wanted to get our numbers out to the parishioners as soon as he had them, because people are eager to have communications with the diocese," Frontczak said. "He feels that part of building trust is being open and giving out as much information as we have."
The diocese, which stretches from Petaluma to the Oregon state line, includes 150,000 members.
The survey, conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, comes on the heels of a national audit of the church's 191 dioceses that was released Jan. 6. The audit found 90 percent of the dioceses in America have complied with new, stricter measures intended to prevent sexual abuse of children.
Both studies were commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 in response to the public outcry about the scandal.
Frontczak said further reviews as part of the national study found four more priests accused of misconduct. Two are dead, one has left the priesthood and a fourth, a visiting priest from Latin America, is possibly in Washington, D.C. She said none of the remaining living priests is currently ministering.
A state Senate bill that extended the statute of limitations for lawsuits by childhood sexual abuse victims also has turned up new victims, said Frontczak.
Donald Hoard of Petaluma, whose son was molested by the Rev. Gary Timmons in the early 1970s, believes the disclosure doesn't address the breadth of the problem. He said the church has also dragged its heels in providing information on the scope of the problem.
"They should have done this a long time ago," he said. "The authorities for the church have never voluntarily given out information on this sexual scandal, and all they've given has been forced out by lawsuits."
The Santa Rosa Diocese has been especially hard hit by the sexual misconduct scandal. Six former priests have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct, including Timmons, Don Kimball and Austin Peter Keegan, who were all defrocked. The three other accused priests, John Rogers, Vincent O'Neill and Patrick Gleeson, have died.
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