‘No place was safe’; Advocates demand names of abusive priests from the Diocese of Oakland

CBS News [New York NY]

December 14, 2022

By Betty Yu

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, has called for the Diocese of Oakland to publicly released the full list of alleged abusive priests in the Catholic church. 

One survivor of abuse is encouraging victims to come forward before the window to file a civil suit closes at the end of the year. 

Joey Piscitelli claims he was first molested when he was playing pool at a Catholic school in Richmond when he was 14 years old. He said the abuse by a priest went on for more than a year and a half.  

“I think the most promiment side effect I deal with is chronic insomnia and triggering, flashbacks, nightmares, and dissociation. I still seek help for that,” Piscitelli said. 

Piscitelli may now be 66 years old, but his memories of sexual abuse remain painful and vivid. As the Northern California leader of SNAP, he helps victims of all ages. 

“First of all, most kids who are abused don’t come forward for at least 25 to 30 years, that’s why you’re seeing all these lawsuits being filed later, and so the victims or survivors suffer a multitude of aftereffects everything to triggering, to alcoholism, to criminal activity to inability to have relationships,” he said.  

Piscitelli said he knows there are far more abusers and victims than are publicly known. But on Monday his organization held a press conference to unveil a list of East Bay priests and other members they say have been accused of sexual abuse, mostly against children. 

“We have found in Northern California, 687 unique abusers who wandered through 530 parishes,” said SNAP treasurer Dan McNevin.  “It’s an amazing statistic, because it means that no place was safe.”  

SNAP said it has compiled a list of 227 names, much longer than the 65 names that have been published by the Diocese of Oakland. On Monday, SNAP delivered the letter, meant for Bishop Michael Barber, to a driver outside Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light. 

In 2019, AB 218 created a three-year period for victims of childhood sexual abuse to come forward even if their statute of limitations had ended. 

“I got a call the other day from a victim who is 70, and he’s never come forward before,” Piscitelli said. “So that’s not unusal so my message to victims is you have a chance now to get some kind of vindication so I would take it now while the window’s still open.” 

The Diocese of Oakland said in a statement to KPIX: 

The Diocese of Oakland considers all allegations of misconduct by clergy serious. We have received the list from SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) and are reviewing it.

The Diocese has had policies and a formal process of reviewing and responding to allegations in place for many years. If someone has an allegation of misconduct to be made against any clergy, we encourage them to report immediately to civil authorities. The Diocese also welcomes receiving the information so we can establish a communication with the survivor of alleged abuse and determine the credibility of the accusation.

There is no standard definition for a “credible accusation.” The Diocese of Oakland lists priests, deacons, religious brothers and religious sisters who have been found credibly accused of sexual abuse of minor(s).

The process for evaluating whether an allegation is credible is not a legal process. Examples of information used to ascertain credibility include, but are not limited to, admissions by the accused, criminal convictions, other types of legal actions, patterns of conduct, and prior determinations closer to the time of the alleged sexual abuse or the time when the matter was first investigated. The determination of credibility of an allegation does not establish that a crime was committed. 

A full definition of the Diocese of Oakland’s criteria for credibly accused clergy and religious is found on our website at oakdiocese.org/credible-accusations.

Helen Osman 

Interim Director of Communications

“My reaction to the diocese’s response – I think it’s a bunch of hog wash, because if they really wanted to be transparent, they would release the names,” Piscitelli said.