Diocese released ‘credible’ list of alleged abusers; Several served in Porterville area long ago

The Porterville Recorder [Porterville CA]

August 11, 2021

By Charles Whisand

The Diocese of Fresno has released a list of priests who have faced credible accusations of sexual abuse of a minor.

Listed were several who served in Porterville and Lindsay. All served in this area for a short time and at least nearly 40 years ago.

The Diocese released a list of 37 clergy who it determined had faced credible accusations of sexual abuse of abusing a minor while serving in the Diocese of Fresno. The list included 37 priests, deacons or members of religious orders in which 24 were incardinated priests for the Diocese of Fresno, seven were extern priests and six were members from a religions order.

In addition the diocese released 29 clergy and members of religious orders with no allegations while they served in the Diocese of Fresno but had allegations against them in other dioceses. No one on the list is still serving in the Diocese.

Those who served in the Porterville area who had allegations against them included Rev. Gerald Chavez, who died in 2020. He was ordained in 1973 for the Diocese of Fresno and served as a Parochial Vicar at St. Anne’s Church in 2010.

In addition, the Rev. Louis Garcia was ordained for the Diocese of Fresno in 1963. He served as a Parochial Vicar at St. Anne’s in 1979 and as chaplain at Porterville Developmental Center in 1979. Garcia was suspended from the church in 1981. The Diocese listed his status as unknown.

The Rev. Edward Haskins was ordained for the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno in 133 and served at Sacred Heart Church in Lindsay in 1940. Haskins died in 1981.

The Rev. Msgr. Anthony Herdegen was ordained for the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno in 1946. He served as pastor of St. Anne’s Church in Porterville from 1980-1982. He died in 2009.

The Diocese listed all four as having faced allegations while in the Diocese of Fresno.

There were two listed as not facing allegations in this diocese but as having faced allegations elsewhere.

The Rev. Stuart B. Campbell, O.P. was ordained in 1930 to the Dominican’s. He served as Parochial Vicar at St. Anne’s in 1954. He died in 1986.

The Rev. Msgr. Gilbert Meyer served as Pastor of Sacred Heart in Lindsay in 1967. He was ordained to the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno in 1942. He died in 2020.

“Upon completion of a laborious and time sensitive project, the Diocese of Fresno has released a list of credibly accused clergy,” the Diocese released in a statement.

The investigation began in May 2019 and was conducted by Kinsale Management Consulting under the leadership of Dr. Kathleen McChesney, former Executive Assistant Director of the FBI. There were 2,800 clergy files reviewed to identify any priest, deacon or a member of a religious order with allegations of sexual abuse involving a minor.

Upon completion of Kinsale Consulting’s investigation, the Diocese Review Board reviewed the findings and reached an opinion that allegations was credible or more than likely not to be true.

“This has been a necessary and important project,” the Diocese stated. “The incident of any sexual abuse of minors in the local church is a tragedy, an evil that must not happen again. The Diocese of Fresno remains committed to the protection of its youth and ensuring that safeguards are followed rigorously.”

The diocese’s Bishop, Joseph V. Brennan, also released a statement. “I am releasing a list of priests, deacons and religious (leaders) who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors and young people in the Diocese of Fresno. This lists is meant to be part of an on-going process of healing for everyone.”

Brennan issued his statement on Friday, August 6 and said that was no coincidence since that day was the Feast of Transfiguration of Our Lord.

“This will be a ‘living document,” stated Brennan, admitting new names may be added in the future. “We must do everything in our power to prevent instances of abuse from every happening at any time or anywhere here in the Diocese of Fresno. We are determined to be vigilant. It is perpetual vigilance.”

He also added a “final” word on the timing on the release of the list “lest anyone should conclude that this has been determined by recent events, press conferences or undue pressure.”

He said it was his intention to release the list during Lent earlier this year. “Obviously that did not happy but now is the timeduring which our local Church will be touched by its own full measure of penitence and penance.

“When all is said and done, brothers and sisters, it is never too late to do the right thing. That too is a work in progress, at least it is for me.”

In conclusion, Brennan stated, “May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Mercy, intercede for us. Saint Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.”

The Diocese also released its criteria for what it considered a credible allegation which it stated was determined “after investigation and review, appears to be credible” or “more than likely than not to have occurred.”

The Diocese also stated when determining allegations to not be credible even though it received the allegation after the accused had died, that prevented a “complete or thorough investigation to the extent possible, but the allegation, based upon available information, appears more likely than not to be.”