Man Accuses Priest of Molestation, Protests outside Church

ABC 7 [California]
March 23, 2005

Father Steve Whelan is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing an East Bay boy more than 30 years ago. The lawsuit against him is one of almost 200 now underway against the catholic church in Northern California. I-Team reporter Dan Noyes spoke with the priest and his accuser today. He reports from Saints Peter and Paul Church in San Francisco, where Father Whelan now works. The accuser, his family and about a dozen activists protested at Saints Peter and Paul today. They say they are concerned that children could be in danger at this church and school. This is the latest in a long series of reports the I-Team has done on the sexual abuse crisis in the catholic church.

Joe Piscitelli tells us he was 14 years old when the abuse first started at the hands of Father Steve Whelan at Richmond's Salesian High School.

Joe Piscitelli, accuser: "He abused me at the Boys Club, on the stairway, in his office upstairs, and he stalked me."

Piscitelli says the priest sexually assaulted him many times over the course of two-and-half years and that he told his family and a therapist provided by the church.

The priest was never disciplined. Father Whelan tells us Piscitelli is lying.

Father Steve Whelan, associate pastor, Saints Peter & Paul: "This is just a, it's a spurious argument, accusation, so I am not in any -- I have not been suspended or anything."

Dan Noyes: "And so, there's no truth to the accusation?"

Father Whelan: "None at all, from my point of view."

Whelan is now the associate pastor at Saints Peter and Paul. He says mass, works in the Boys and Girls Club, and monitors recess at the grade school.

Piscitelli: "I'm worried that the same thing will happen to them as what happened to me, and usually victims don't come forward right away."

Piscitelli and activists from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests held a protest at the church today and called on Archbishop William Levada to suspend Father Whelan while the court case unfolds.

Dan McNevin, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests: "For Bishop Levada to leave this man in the ministry, to allow him to be in a landmark San Francisco institution, where there's a school, a park, kids, it just kind of defies imagination. It doesn't make any sense."

A spokesman for the archdiocese says Levada would not be available to comment on the case, but the pastor at Saints Peter & Paul says the Salesian order investigated the complaint against Father Whelan and found nothing.

Father John Malloy, pastor, Saints Peter and Paul: "I've known him for many years, there's never been the least suspicion that he's a danger to children."

The pastor confronted Piscitelli at the protest today, and said the children at Saints Peter and Paul are safe.

Father Whelan: "They're in no danger."

Piscitelli: "I understand denial is part of..."

Father Whelan: "No denial, just the statement they're in no danger."

Officials at the archdiocese tell us they are doing all they can to protect children. By the way, there are two other priests from Salesian High who were convicted of child molestation.


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