Fremont's Holy Spirit Church in Need of New Leadership

By Greg Bullough
The Argus [Fremont CA]
May 10, 2005

FATHER Gerry Moran's house is haunted.

Behind its tidy suburban facade, Fremont's Holy Spirit parish harbors the specter of horrible deeds done there a generation ago.

The innocence of dozens of young girls, stolen by a sexual predator priest, hangs in the air like ghosts with unfinished spiritual business.

It was taken from them by Vincent Ignatius Breen, the pastor from 1953 to 1982.

Moran took over two years after Breen resigned to escape prosecution in a headline-making sex-abuse scandal.

Breen went down in history as one of the most notorious sex abusers in a diocese and a city that have both had more than their share.

Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron will perform a sort of exorcism, in the form of an apology service, tonight.

Although the Diocese of Oakland privately has admitted Breen's abuses for years, this will be the first time that it publicly acknowledges the truth of the survivors' stories.

It is decades past due.

The question remains, once the bishop's mea culpas are over: What then?

Like his Amityville counterpart, Moran's approach to dealing with his own ghosts has been to ignore them and to deny them.

In 2001, some of Breen's survivors asked for the simple courtesy of having Breen's name removed from the parish center.

Not only did Moran rebuff the request, he denied any knowledge of the crimes, some of which occurred in the very rooms in which he now resides.

The sign came down on direct order of then-Bishop John Cummins after the survivors threatened to take the issue public.

When the diocese scheduled the apology service at Holy Spirit, specifically regarding Breen's abuses, Moran twice announced the event in the bulletin.

Both times he pointedly left Breen's name and Holy Spirit's name out of it.

Though the Catholic Church claims to have learned and changed in 2005, this pastor apparently hasn't learned much.

He seems to continue to cover for his late colleague, while refusing to acknowledge the people whom Breen hurt by his breaches of trust.

Survivors wonder when Moran will acknowledge what happened to them at Holy Spirit and honor them, instead of honoring the man who molested and even raped them.

They wonder when he will change the attitude that continues to re-wound and re-victimize them.

A parish with Holy Spirit's terrible history needs a leader who can face that past and finish the unfinished business.

Moran seems determined to continue the denial and secrecy that fostered the clergy abuse scandal.

In that environment, survivors will never heal and children will never be safe.

It's time for things to change at Holy Spirit parish.

Greg Bullough, as a Holy Spirit parishioner, served at Monsignor Vincent Breen's Masses and attended Holy Spirit School until he graduated in 1973. He counts among his friends a number of survivors of sexual abuse by Breen. He now lives on the East Coast.