Fresno Diocese Continues to Let "Accused" Child Molester Work with Children

By Paul Kiesel
Injury Board
March 19, 2009

A little over two years ago, a Fresno jury found Father Eric Swearingen guilty (9-3) of molesting a former altar boy, however, Bishop John J. Steinbock has continued to allow this man to work with children at the Holy Spirit Parish in Fresno, California.

What is Bishop Steinbock thinking? Would a school district allow a teacher faced with the same situation as Swearingen (I find it inappropriate to refer to him as "Father," as it shows deference to a man who, frankly, doesn't deserve it) to continue working with children? As a parent, would you want your children around a man like that?

Bishop Steinbock, based on his actions, could care less about the future safety of children within any of his parishes and this was especially punctuated yesterday, as he waltzed into a Fresno courtroom, for another clergy sexual abuse case involving one of his former priests, and casually winked at the jury. His attitude, though, changed almost immediately after being questioned by the plaintiff's attorney, Jeff Anderson.

Jeff Anderson: Bishop, when did you first realize or learn that when an adult lays his hands on the genitals of a child and manipulates the genitals of a child and places them on the body of a child for sexual purposes, it was a crime? When did you first realize that?

Bishop: You know, it's really hard for me to say. I think society --

Anderson: No, you.

Bishop: Me?

Anderson: You.

Bishop: I think I thought along with society for so many years it was --

Anderson: Bishop, I'm going to ask you to focus on the question. When did you first learn that it was a crime for an adult, a person over the age of 18, to engage in sex with a kid?

Bishop: Well, I think we would all think that was always a criminal case.

Anderson: If you knew that, then why didn't you turn it over to the law enforcement for them to determine whether or not a crime had been committed and the statute of limitations had passed or not?

Bishop: Because I do not have an allegation of that against him. This is way back in 1995. As I said, I had no cause to take his faculties or away. There was no allegation.

Anderson: You were concerned about a civil suit because you go on to say [in the Bishop's own notes from 1995], "There can always be a civil suit," right?

Bishop: Well, there can always be a civil suit. But I'm also thinking of his, you know, that might be a civil suit against him. I mean, I wasn't aware that they'd probably just come at the Diocese alone. I figured they would also go after the priest.

Wow! Steinbock's responses at one point show that back in 1995, when the current allegation was brought to his attention, he was more concerned with a civil suit than turning over any evidence of wrongdoing by his clergymen to the authorities.

Again, what is Steinbock thinking and who above him (i.e. the Pope, Cardinal Mahony) would allow for this type of behavior to continue in ANY Catholic diocese throughout the world?


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