Pedophile Priest Sent to North Coast in "80s

By Guy Kovner
The Press Democrat
August 12 2010

A former Irish Catholic priest who now faces charges of molesting six boys in his homeland served for about three years at churches in Eureka and Guerneville, officials said Wednesday.

Patrick Joseph McCabe, 74, came to the Santa Rosa Diocese from Dublin, Ireland, in 1983, months after he had been designated as a pedophile and placed on a drug to curb his sexual impulses at a church treatment facility in New Mexico.

McCabe's transfer was arranged by former Dublin Archbishop Dermot Ryan and former Santa Rosa Bishop Mark Hurley, according to an official report by the Dublin Archdiocese on more than 40 priests involved in sexual misconduct in Ireland.

“It appears that Archbishop Ryan asked him (Hurley) to, as it were, ‘rid me of this troublesome priest,' and Bishop Hurley agreed,” according to a 61-page portion of the report. The account details the misdeeds of an unnamed priest that precisely matches McCabe's history.

McCabe, a diminutive white-haired man, is being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County pending an extradition process in federal court that would send him back to Ireland.

A filing by the U.S. Attorney's Office says McCabe is accused of sexually assaulting six boys in Dublin between 1973 and 1981. McCabe was first accused in 1988 and fled the country that year.

The report, commissioned by the Irish government and released last year, was highly critical of law enforcement for not pursuing the case and contributed to the issuing of a series of arrest warrants, the most recent in May.

The report says that Hurley, who died in 2001, was informed by Ryan of McCabe's “personal difficulties” and the nature of his treatment for pedophilia.

McCabe was assigned in 1983 to St. Bernard parish in Eureka, where at least three other priests involved in the North Coast diocese's sexual abuse scandal also worked at various times.

The diocese, which serves 167,000 Catholics from Sonoma County to the Oregon border, has paid about $25 million to settle victims' lawsuits, bringing it at one point to the brink of bankruptcy.

In 1985, McCabe was removed by Hurley from St. Bernard's after “stories of inappropriate conduct began to emerge from Eureka,” the Irish report says.

McCabe also briefly served at St. Elizabeth parish in Guerneville in 1986 before returning to Dublin, officials said.

Dan Galvin, attorney for the Santa Rosa Diocese, confirmed that Hurley revoked McCabe's standing to serve as a priest in the diocese based on reports of “inappropriate behavior.”

Church files do not specify what behavior was involved, he said.

McCabe is not among the 17 diocese priests accused of sexual misconduct, Galvin said.

“We have never had a victim come forward saying they were abused by McCabe in our diocese,” he said.

Eight of the accused priests have been named by victims in various disclosures. The other nine have not been identified by Bishop Daniel Walsh, who has said they are either dead or no longer serving in the diocese.

Walsh, who has headed the diocese since 2000, returned Wednesday on a flight from Africa through Amsterdam and was not available for comment.

McCabe, who was removed from the priesthood in 1988, had been living in Alameda and reportedly surrendered to authorities July 30.

David Clohessy, an advocate for victims of priest sex abuse, called the McCabe case a “painfully familiar pattern” of the scandal that surfaced in Santa Rosa in 1994, exploded nationwide in 2002 and this year spread through Europe, with allegations of a coverup reaching the Vatican.

Clohessy, national director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said McCabe was “a case of a predator priest moved with no warning to unsuspecting parishes time and time again.”

The international reach of McCabe's transfer from Ireland to Santa Rosa is “frankly, even worse,” Clohessy said, due to the difficulty of investigating a priest's past from “thousands of miles away.”

Clohessy said the Santa Rosa Diocese had a “moral duty” to seek out any victims of abuse in any area where McCabe served. In addition to Eureka and Guerneville, the Irish report says he resided in Sebastopol in 1986.

McCabe subsequently enrolled in an educational course in Sacramento, where diocese officials, after learning of his background, told an Irish monsignor in June, 1987: “Urgent to get him out of the USA — to anywhere,” the Irish report says.

In early 1988, Irish bishops let McCabe return to California, the report says, noting that they “in effect, set him loose on the unsuspecting population of Stockton.”

Galvin said he had not been asked by Bishop Walsh to undertake any special outreach regarding McCabe. “There's probably not much we can do,” Galvin said, noting that the priest's alleged crimes were committed decades ago. “The publicity will be out there.”

Julie Sparacio, the diocese's victims' assistance coordinator, said she has not received any report of abuse by McCabe in the eight years she's worked for the church, nor has there been any overture to McCabe's victims.

“What I'm hopeful of is that those individuals who know someone or may have been harmed by this priest, that they'll come forward to the diocese, to me, so that we can do what we can to help,” she said.

The Rev. Loren Allen, pastor at St. Bernard Church for the past 10 years, said he has never heard of McCabe, nor had any parishioners he talked to on Wednesday.

“Apparently, he wasn't very memorable,” Allen said.

A longtime parishioner at St. Elizabeth's said he does not remember a priest named McCabe serving at the Guerneville church.

“I don't remember him ever giving any Masses here,” said Herman Hernandez, a Realtor who has been an active parishioner at St. Elizabeth's for 41 years.

But McCabe's name surfaced in legal papers as the sex abuse scandal began unfolding here in 1994.

Hurley, who headed the diocese from 1969-87, admitted to shielding abusive priests from prosecution. “I've never gone to the police,” Hurley said in a 1995 deposition. “I think there's a danger in that and therefore, I have never reported anything on anybody to the police.”

Hurley also also testified that he tore up all confidential personnel records before leaving office, an act noted in the Irish report.

But Hurley responded after Catholic parents in Eureka complained that McCabe had children sit on his knee when hearing their first confession.

“Hurley just yanked him,” Monsignor Thomas Keys, then vicar-general of the diocese, said in a 1998 deposition.

Keys, who is on medical leave from his post at Star of the Valley Church in Oakmont, could not be reached for comment.

The Irish report noted that no evidence was found of any effort by church official there to make sure that McCabe continued to take the medication, Depo-Provera, recommended in 1983 to “curb his pedophile tendencies.”

It also said that McCabe had not returned to Ireland since 1998.

“This case encapsulates everything that was wrong with the archdiocesan handling of child sex abuse cases,” the report concluded.

Staff Writer Martin Espinoza and library researcher Teresa Meikle contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or


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