A Priest with a Past Dies, to Little Attention

Bay Area Observer
September 15, 2010

There was a funeral mass this morning at San Francisco’s Corpus Christi parish church for Father Bernard Dabbene, whose death Sept. 9 at age 73 went unobserved by local media. The Chronicle published only a modest death notice, despite Dabbene’s long having held a prominent role in the San Francisco Archdiocese.

Former archbishop and now Cardinal William Levada appointed Dabbene vicar for pastoral ministry, to serve as his liaison to the archdiocese’s 89 parishes. He served on the archdiocese school board, was a longtime principal and was pastor at several parishes, including Corpus Christi.

But a simple death notice isn’t designed to tell much. Dabbene was also a convicted sex offender who pleaded guilty in 2001 to molesting a teenager near the San Francisco waterfront. Afterward, a former seminarian came forward to say that the priest had abused him years earlier. At the time, the ex-seminarian marveled at how Dabbene’s career had flourished for so long, since he said he reported the abuse to Salesian officials when it occurred.

As for Dabbene, he returned to the Salesians of Saint John Bosco, and its order house on Franklin Street, after the guilty plea. He was put in charge of supervising the order’s archives. This afternoon, he was to be buried at a Salesian cemetery in Richmond.


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