|Two More Allege Abuse at St. Bernard's in 1980s; Four Have Now Sued Santa Rosa Diocese over Alleged Conduct of Former Priest
By Thadeus Greenson
September 17, 2010
Two more men are suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa, alleging they were repeatedly molested by a former priest at St. Bernard's Parish in 1984.
The lawsuits, which were filed in Sonoma County Superior Court last week, are virtually identical to a pair of suits filed last month and allege that the church committed fraud and acted negligently when it placed priest Patrick Joseph McCabe in the Eureka parish from 1983 to 1985, knowing that McCabe had been deemed a pedophile and without warning parishioners.
The suits -- filed under the names John Doe 76 through 79 by Sacramento-based attorney Joseph George -- seek unspecified damages to compensate the plaintiffs for psychological and emotional injuries, as well as reimbursement for medical and mental health expenses.
McCabe, now 74, is currently in the process of being extradited to Ireland to face charges of molesting six boys there between 1973 and 1981. He reportedly left the church in 1988.
McCabe was transferred to St. Bernard's Parish -- which comprises St. Bernard's and St. Joseph churches -- after molestation allegations began surfacing against him in Dublin. McCabe arrived in Eureka, reportedly just months after he was deemed a pedophile, enrolled in a treatment program and was placed on medications intended to rein in his sexual desires.
Monsignor Gerard Brady, who headed St. Bernard's Church from 1979 to 1984, has insisted he didn't know of McCabe's past when he welcomed him to the local parish. However, a report by Irish Circuit Court Judge Yvonne Murphy -- known simply as the “Murphy Report” -- indicates higher-ranking church officials did know of McCabe's past. According to the report, the transfer to the United States was arranged by Dublin Archbishop Dermot Ryan and former Santa Rosa Bishop Mark Hurley after allegations about McCabe surfaced in Dublin in 1982.
According to the report, Ryan asked Hurley “to, as it were, 'rid me of this troublesome priest,'” seemingly a reference to Jean Anouilh's play “Becket.”
All four lawsuits allege that church officials have historically refused to disclose information regarding cleric's sexual abuse to parishioners, and even fellow clerics, as a way to maintain secrecy and keep scandals under wraps. Consequently, the suit alleges, parishioners of St. Bernard's were never warned that McCabe, a known pedophile, posed a risk to them and their children. In contrast, the suits allege that parishioners -- and the plaintiffs specifically -- were encouraged to trust, obey and respect McCabe.
The John Does range in age from 36 to 44. Three still live in Humboldt County, and one has moved to Southern California, according to George, who said the men only learned of McCabe's alleged history -- and Hurley's knowledge of it -- through recent news reports.
”You had these four individuals who didn't know about anybody else, thought they were isolated (victims) and are now a combination of saddened and outraged that Hurley would place a known pedophile in their school,” George said. “It's a school, for goodness' sake.”
Three of the John Does have alleged McCabe molested them while they were alter boys between the ages of 9 and 11 at St. Bernard's. The fourth is alleging that McCabe molested him when he was 17.
Last month, Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh penned a letter to St. Bernard's parishioners asking anyone who “might have been mistreated by this priest to come forward so that the church might apologize and ask forgiveness as well as offer to help to overcome any damage done.” The letter goes on to state that past clergy sexual abuse of minors is a “great shame” for the church.
While the letter urges any parishioners who may have been abused by McCabe to call the diocese's Child Youth Protection Office, victims advocates groups argue that the calls would be better placed to law enforcement or the organization Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, also known as SNAP.
Reached Thursday, Diocese Director of Communications Deirdre Frontczak said no one has come forward at this point to contact the diocese, St. Bernard's Parish or the Child Youth Protection Office to report any abuse by McCabe. Frontczak also said Walsh would not be commenting further on the case.
”It's a very difficult situation for him to say anything,” Frontczak said. “Bishop Hurley's not here. He can't ask him. ... Bishop Hurley said he burned, threw away or destroyed all his records. We have no records and we have no complaints, so it's really difficult to offer a comment other than that we encourage everyone with knowledge of someone who may have been harmed to come forward.”
Frontczak also encouraged anyone who suspects that young people may currently be in danger at one of the diocese's parishes to both come forward to the diocese and to authorities.
”Please, we urge people to come forward,” she said.
Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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