Msgr. John P. Heaney

Summary of Case: Heaney was a highly respected long-time police chaplain in San Francisco who was accused in 2002 of having molested two young brothers in the early 1960s. One of the two said the abuse started when he was almost 8 years old, and ended when he was 10. Heaney was placed on leave, and indicted on charges involving one of the two brothers. Charges were dropped in 2003 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the California law that would have allowed prosecution. Heaney died January 29, 2010.

: 1953
Retired: 2003
Died: 2010


Start Stop Parish/Assignment Town/Accusations State Position Notes


San Francisco archbishop was John Joseph Mitty (1935-1961).

1960 St. Agnes San Francisco CA 4/4, 3/3, 2/4, 2/5 Parish had a school with 245-198 boys and 285-231 girls.
1960 1961 St. Peter's

San Francisco




In residence; Archdiocesan Missionaries.

Parish had a grade school with 310 boys and 39 girls, and a high school with 158 girls.


Mitty was succeeded by Joseph Thomas McGucken (1962-1977).

1968 Cathedral of St. Mary (Assumption)

San Francisco

Heaney was accused in 2002 of having molested two brothers in the early 1960s. He was indicted in 2003 for the abuse of one of the the boys, who said the abuse started in Sept. 1961, when he was just about 8 years-old and lasted until he was 10.


4/4, 5/5

In residence.

Parish had a school with 74-50 boys and 72-94 boys. The Directories note that the Cathedral's temporary location from 1962-1968 was Sacred Heart High School.


    Sacred Heart High School San Francisco CA teacher, athletic coach This assignment is per news reports.



1971 On Duty Outside the Diocese/Notre Dame University South Bend IN    
1971 1974 Marin Catholic High School Kentfield CA faculty member, athletic director, dean Marin Catholic had 382-369 boys and 384-381 girls.


John Raphael Quinn replaced McGucken (1977-1995).

1979 St. Rita's Fairfax CA 2/3, 2/4, 1/3 Parish had a school with 290-242 students.
1975 1977 Archdiocesan Consultors San Francisco CA    


William Joseph Levada followed Quinn as San Francisco archbishop (1995-2005).

1997 Apostleship of the Sea San Francisco CA Director and Port Chaplain

Heaney was elevated to Monsignor status in 1989.


    International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators     Chaplain Per Heaney's obituary, he held this position for 34 years.
1968 2003 San Francisco Police Dept. San Francisco CA Chaplain Again, the Directories do not note this position until 1987, but Heaney's obituary states that he held it from 1968-2003.
    New York City Police Dept. Bomb Squad New York NY Chaplain This assignment is per news reports.


George Hugh Niederauer replaced Levada (2005-).

2010 Retired      

Heaney was placed on leave in Aug. 2002 when allegations that he had abused two boys in the early 1960s surfaced. He was allowed to continue his chaplaincy with the SF Police Dept. during the investigation.

Charges were dropped in 2003 due to a Supreme Court Ruling overturning a California law regarding statutes of limitation that would have allowed for prosecution.

Heaney died Jan. 29, 2010.


Sources: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1954-2010)

Cop Chaplain Suspended, Investigated, By Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle, August 16, 2002
Suspended Priest Worked in County, Marin Independent Journal (Marin, CA), August 22, 2002
S.F. Archdiocese Quietly Removing Accused Priests, By Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle, August 29, 2002
Molest Charges against SFPD Chaplain, By Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle, January 24, 2003
Priest in Court on Sex Charge, By Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle, January 30, 2003
'Retroactive Punishment' Test Case, By Bob Egelko, March 31, 2003
See No Evil, By Ron Russell, San Francisco Weekly, May 21, 2003
Prosecutors' Patience Wears Thin with Levada, Mahony, By Ron Russell, SF Weekly, June 25, 2003
Accused abusers freed in Bay Area / 16, including ex-priests, released after court ruling, June 28, 2003|By Jaxon Van Derbeken, Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writers
Levada Takes Heat over Abuse Inquiry, By Don Lattin, San Francisco Chronicle, November 12, 2004
Heaney, John, San Francisco Chronicle, January 31, 2010

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Heaney's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on March 17, 2014.