At the School and at Her Family's Home
Woman Alleges Sexual Abuse by Priest at Salesian High School in Richmond More Than 40 Years Ago

California Catholic Daily
March 4, 2008

Salesian High School in Richmond has had more than its share of clergy accused of sexual abuse. Since its beginnings as a minor seminary in the 1950s, Salesian has had six clergymen accused of abuse, while three others were accused after they left the private school, reported the Feb. 28 Contra Costa Times.

The latest accusation of sexual abuse came on Feb. 28, when Rose Harper of Fairfield made a public allegation in front of Salesian High School against John Vas, 86, a former Salesian priest now living in Florida with his wife, Edna. This is the second accusation of abuse against Vas.

Harper, 54, claims Vas, a former band instructor at Salesian, began abusing her when she was 7 years old. Harper told the Times she would accompany her parents to the school, where her brother was a student. Vas, she said, abused her at the school and at her family's home, where he was frequently a guest. Harper said the abuse continued for about seven years, until 1967 or '68. Her mother told her not to tell her father because he would not believe it, said Harper.

Besides her public announcement, Harper has filed a report with Richmond police. Vas, however, probably cannot be prosecuted, since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 struck down a California law that removed the statute of limitations in criminal cases having to do with sexual molestation.

Harper said she called Vas "to make sure it was him." Recognizing his Hungarian accent, Harper asked him if he remembered her and if he had taught at Salesian. "He said, 'What is this about?'" Harper told the Times. "I said, 'You molested me as a child, you ruined my childhood.'" When he didn't respond, she said, "I hope you rot in hell." Vas then hung up. Vas' wife confirmed the conversation for the Times. She said her husband did not recall what Harper alleges and said he was not at Salesian in 1967 or '68.

Of the half-dozen Salesians accused of molesting minors, one admitted in 2003 to molesting a former male student, while another admitted in 2000 to molesting a 17-year old male. The other accused Salesians have denied the allegations against them.


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