Bernie Ward Allegedly Had Sexual Contact with Ursuline Students in '70s

By Martin Espinoza
Press Democrat
May 10, 2008

Cardinal Newman High School officials said Friday they were surprised to hear that former KGO Radio talk show host Bernie Ward allegedly had sexual contact with two Ursuline High School students while he was a priest teaching at the schools.

Ward, who pleaded guilty Thursday to distributing child pornography over the Internet, was the subject of a KGO-TV, ABC Channel 7, report Thursday.

Cardinal Newman Principal Graham Rutherford said he knew a film crew had come to the school about a month ago for the story, but the details of the report were a "fairly big surprise."

The report featured an interview with Rosanne Schwab, a former Ursuline student. She said that during a trip to the beach when she was 17, Ward "grabbed the back of my head and pulled me to him and stuck his tongue in my mouth and held me very tightly with the one hand behind my head and the other hand up against my breasts."

A second Ursuline student, who was not named, said Ward tried to kiss her on the way back from a prayer meeting in San Francisco. That move got Ward a punch in the stomach, according to the report.

Rutherford, a Cardinal Newman graduate, said he was a senior when Schwab was a sophomore at Ursuline and that he personally knew her.

"I always found her an honest person," he said. "She was real direct and confident. ... It doesn't strike me as something that she would just make up."

Ward's attorney, Doron Weinberg, rejected the claims made in the KGO-TV report, calling them "completely false." Weinberg could not be reached for comment Friday.

Rutherford said Ward worked at Cardinal Newman for a brief period between 1978 and 1979 and that there is no record of why he was transferred. At the time, Ward served as a priest under the Society of the Precious Blood.

Deirdre Frontczak, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa, said that since he was not a local diocesan priest, there is likely no record at the diocese of Ward's alleged sexual misconduct with Ursuline students.

The Santa Rosa Diocese owns the land and property of the schools, but the schools are run independently, said Frontczak.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker agreed Thursday to hold off on accepting Ward's guilty plea to one count of distributing child pornography until sentencing Aug. 28.

That allows Ward to avoid going to federal prison until then. He faces at least five years behind bars.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or


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