E. Bay Priest Reinstated after Sex Abuse Probe

February 25, 2008

[with video]

OAKLAND (BCN) -- A priest accused of sexual misconduct with a minor is being reinstated after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland ruled the allegation could not be substantiated.

CBS 5 CrimeWatch

Father Chris Berbena began working for the Diocese of Oakland in 1997 and was removed twice since February 2004 after his name popped up on a list of alleged sexual abusers posted on the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Web site, where Berbena once worked, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland.

Photo by AP

He was reinstated within the month in 2004 because an investigation by the diocese could not turn up the name of the accuser or details of the alleged incident of sexual abuse, according to the Diocese of Oakland.

Then, in March 2006, Berbena was one of 10 members of the Franciscan Order involved in a global settlement made without admission of guilt or wrongdoing, or the ability to object to the accusation, the Oakland diocese said.

In accordance with its policy, the diocese again removed Berbena from the ministry and its review board reopened the investigation.

The board could not substantiate the accusation against Berbena and recommended he be reinstated.

"I respect the work of the review board and I accept their recommendation," Bishop Allen Vignernon said in a prepared statement. "We cannot forget that our responsibility is to be vigilant in the protection of our children. The Diocese of Oakland remains absolutely committed to the protection of children and is eager to hear any credible information about this case or any other case where a minor has been abused by a cleric or employee of the Diocese of Oakland."

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