SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests [Chicago IL]
March 7, 2023
By Zack Hiner
A highly placed lay employee at the Diocese of Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light was arrested by Walnut Creek police on January 6, 2023, on suspicion of possessing and sharing child pornography. SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is appalled that, as far as we can determine, no outreach was done in the community or with the public in the ensuing 2 months.
Jeremiah York worked as the assistant to the Rector of the Cathedral. Until he was removed from that position in January, we believe that he may have had access to children at the parish. Hundreds of boys and girls attend the Cathedral’s CCD and related programs. York is also a photographer with photo credits showing Oakland Bishop, Michael Barber, performing various rites that included children.
While we are dismayed that an accused child pornographer had a job in the Cathedral, the Bishop’s own church, we are worried that his relationship to Bishop Barber and the Cathedral Rector may have given him a perfect cover for accessing children. What good Catholic would suspect that the man who is a friend of the bishop and the assistant to the priest in charge of their church would not be safe to be around boys and girls?
Studies show that purveyors of child porn are more than 50% likely to also engage in hands on molestation. Moreover, the victimization of those boys and girls who appear in the photos is never ending. Their images are traded and used indefinitely, leading to a lifetime of victimization for those children.
As we said above, SNAP is appalled that no outreach has been conducted. This lack of transparency harkens back to the secrecy that has plagued Oakland and all US dioceses for the past forty years. How can families trust the Bishop when he learns that he has employed an accused pornographer, and then refuses to be open about this with the people of his Cathedral and his Diocese?
We applaud the anonymous person who brought this arrest to the attention of a whistleblower, former Oakland Diocese priest Tim Stier, who was unafraid to go to the media with the news. However, we are saddened that the source of this report feared for their job and felt they had to go through Tim, who has been defrocked for his activism on behalf of survivors. It seems to us that the Oakland Diocese cannot be a safe or healthy place for Catholics of any age when its people fear doing the right thing, and if they fear being punished by their Bishop for standing up for children.
We are concerned that York may have used his position to access children at the Cathedral or in the Diocese to make pornography featuring them. We are also concerned that he may have sexually abused those children. We believe the Bishop, the Rector, and anyone else who knew York should voluntarily share all they know with Walnut Creek police and the Contra Costa DA. In addition, they should make sure to save York’s diocesan owned computers and digital files so that they are preserved as evidence. If child porn is discovered on those servers, the public deserves to be told.
Most importantly, we think Bishop Barber should immediately use all of the Diocese’s resources to beg anyone who may have experienced, witnessed or suspected York of possessing child porn or abusing children to report it to the police immediately. These are serious accusations that lead to devastating consequences for victims. True openness and transparency deserve nothing less.
Dan McNevin, SNAP Treasurer (email@example.com, 415-341-6417), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org, 925-708-6175), Joey Piscitelli, SNAP Northern California (email@example.com, 925-262-3699), Dorothy Small, SNAP Sacramento (firstname.lastname@example.org, 530-908-3676), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager (email@example.com, 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org, 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for more than 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)