Why is San Francisco’s top Catholic shielding pedophile priests?

San Francisco Gate [San Francisco, CA]

October 5, 2022

By Gil Duran

If you grew up under the influence of the Catholic Church, you likely know someone who was sexually abused by a priest. In my family, the destruction manifested in the form of a man who, after several years training for the priesthood, returned home and spent the next few decades preying on boys in the Central Valley.

He would eventually die alone, ostracized as a registered sex offender, but his evil lives on in the anguish of the victims he permanently damaged. His name does not appear on any official list of abusive clergy, but I count his horrific crimes as part of what I consider the Catholic Church’s systematic and global campaign of child rape.

Despite revelations that thousands of ordained priests abused a countless number of children over decades and centuries, the Catholic Church has been slow to repent. Church leaders from Pope John Paul II on down resisted the urgency and transparency needed to right this wrong. They dragged their feet in an apparent effort to allow these violent sexual criminals to die honorably and peacefully — and to avoid costly lawsuits.

Few archbishops have done as much as San Francisco’s Salvatore Cordileone to shield the church’s sexual abusers from accountability. Thanks to Cordileone, San Francisco remains the only archdiocese in California that refuses to provide a full public list of priests and non-ordained staff accused of abuse.

Cordileone — who earned a reputation as a right-wing hero by attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her support for abortion rights — remains steadfast in his commitment to protect the identities of the pedophiles who preyed on children in the church.

On Sept. 29, a group of Catholic abuse survivors affiliated with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests released their own list of sexual abusers from the San Francisco archdiocese. SNAP members stood in front of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption on Gough Street to unveil a list of 312 men who allegedly engaged in rape, sexual assault, oral sex and sodomy in a spree of abuse spanning more than 100 years.

“The Diocese of San Francisco, like a lot of other dioceses, was involved in protecting and enabling shuffling and protecting predators for decades,” said Joey Piscitelli, who was raped and abused by a San Francisco priest and now serves as Northern California director for SNAP. “The diocese is reluctant to give out the names and wants to protect these people because they have liability.”

In 2018, Cordileone said the archdiocese had paid out at least $87 million in settlements to the victims of San Francisco priests. Sex abuse survivors have until the end of this year to file new claims, thanks to a 2019 state law that extended the deadline. Piscitelli sees Cordileone’s resistance as part of a strategy to keep more victims from coming forward.

“I think it would be in the diocese’s best interest to hide some of that information, as far as protecting themselves from liability,” said Piscetelli. “But as far as completing the moral responsibility to the people that they have injured, it doesn’t serve them well.”

In 2006, Piscitelli won a $600,000 judgment against the Salesian Society due to the abuse he suffered at the hands of Father Stephen Whelan, a San Francisco priest who was vice principal of Piscitelli’s high school in the early 1970s. When Piscitelli told his school principal about the abuse — including a rape that left him with bloody underwear — he said the principal screamed at him and threatened him. Even after the jury sided with him, Piscitelli said church officials refused to apologize or take any public responsibility.

When Piscitelli filed his lawsuit in 2003, he said his abuser was still working in a local school. Church officials told him that, after conducting a private investigation of their own, they had decided that his accusations against Whelan lacked credibility.

“They have a policy that, when people call and say that were molested or raped as children, the church does their ‘quote unquote’ independent investigation,” said Piscitelli. “And they nearly always find in favor of the accused priests. So right now, that I know of, there are three to four priests who have been accused and sued that are currently in ministry in San Francisco.”

The archdiocese of San Francisco did not respond to a request for comment, but what more is there to say? Cordileone has cast his lot with the pedophiles and is using his power to suppress a full and transparent accounting of the truth. He’s trying to run out the clock on the church’s many sexual abuse victims, hoping they will remain silent about the plague of sexual abuse.

“By refusing to give out the information, perhaps that puts up a roadblock or a stumbling block for some victims,” said Piscitelli.

In yet another immoral offense against the innocent, Cordileone forced a group of victims and their supporters to compile their own list of abusive priests.

Piscitelli encouraged other victims to ignore the church’s gaslighting and come forward, even if they don’t see the name of their abuser on SNAP’s list. There’s a chance Cordileone is hiding the names of accused priests who have not yet been publicly named but may have been reported to a victim’s hotline set up by the archdiocese.

“I can only imagine how many people have called them, and they’re not releasing the names of the accused,” said Piscitelli.

A depraved secrecy and silence allowed sexual abusers to reign supreme in the Catholic Church for decades. This final assault on the church’s victims — denying the truth and shielding sex offenders — will be Cordileone’s only legacy.

If you wish to speak with someone about abusive church clergy or staff, call SNAP’s helpline at 1-877-SNAP-HEALS (1-877-762-7432) or visit www.snapnetwork.org