SNAP Outs Two Predators in the Diocese of Yakima
By John Shuster
March 9, 2012
We’re here for three reasons – to help protect the vulnerable, help heal the wounded, and help deter future child sex crimes and cover ups.
We’re helping protecting the vulnerable by warning parents, parishioners and the public about a credibly accused child molesting church employee: James Moritz.
We’re helping the wounded by reaching out to anyone who’s been hurt by James Moritz or Fr. John Tholen and who’s suffering in shame, silence and self blame
We’re helping to deter child sex crimes and cover ups by exposing the truth and showing wrongdoers that, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “No lie lives forever.” If you think you can successfully keep child sex crimes hidden forever, think again. The days of cowardly Catholics and frightened victims are increasingly over.
From an internal Catholic church memo, we have recently learned that Moritz has moved out of state. Moritz is a former Yakima lay minister and boys’ choir director who was quietly accused of molesting two Yakima area brothers. As recently as 2008, Moritz was working at a parish in New York.
And from a civil lawsuit, we have learned that Tholen, a former Yakima priest, was sued for alleged child sex abuse and that the suit was settled.
Despite a decade-old national church abuse policy that allegedly mandates “openness and transparency” in child sex cases, Yakima Catholic officials have kept silent about serious child sex abuse allegations against both men for years, enabling the accused men to be around many unsuspecting families. That’s wrong, reckless and deceptive. That’s precisely what bishops promised to STOP doing. But it’s obviously still happening, here and elsewhere.
Here are some more specifics:
--Tholen, who passed away in January. Tholen was publicly exposed as a credibly accused child molester more than a year ago by brave Yakima Catholic man, Robert Fontana, on his website: VOTFcentralwashington.com. In 2002, Tholen was sued for child sexual abuse in Kings County by a Seattle law firm. That lawsuit has since been settled. But, again, for years, church officials have told no one about it.
--Moritz and he worked at St. Paul’s parish in Yakima in the mid-1960s. According to church websites, Moritz worked at St. Patrick’s parish in Long Island, NY, (631 265 2271) from 2000 to 2008 in the Rockville Centre diocese (516 678 5800, firstname.lastname@example.org).
The internal church memo shows that local Catholic officials knew about accusations against Moritz in 2008. They were told about the allegations again more than a year ago, when Fontana wrote to Russ Mazzolla (509 965 7117) about Moritz. (Mazzolla is a former diocesan defense lawyer who heads the Yakima diocese abuse panel. The memo was given to Fontana by Yakima attorney Bryan Smith 509 248 8338).
Despite the serious accusations, Yakima church officials never warned Washington citizens or Catholics about either Moritz or Tholen. We highly doubt that New York church officials warned any of Moritz’s parishioners or colleagues of the allegations either. (We are not sure where Moritz is now.)
We want Bishop Tyson to come clean about all allegations against Moritz and Tholen. We want Bishop Tyson to personally visit each parish where these men worked, and beg others who may have seen, suspected or suffered abuse to come forward. We want Bishop Tyson to apologize for and explain why he and other Yakima Catholic officials kept the accusations against Moritz and Tholen secret for years.
Why are we naming these two accused predators and blocking out the names of others in that church memo?
First, because Yakima church officials – current and former – have far more information about the accused men on this list than we do.
Second, Yakima church officials recruited, educated, ordained, hired, transferred and shielded these men. So Yakima church officials have the duty, not us, have the duty to warn the public about them and inform parents about them.
Third, we hope that today’s event will prod others who saw, suspect and suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Yakima to call us with more information about these men and these allegations. If and when we learn more about these accusations, we hope we’ll be able to take steps to publicly expose more wrongdoing and protect more children.
So why are we focused on Moritz and Tholen?
Because both men have been around kids for years, until very recently, after having been accused years ago.
Both men have benefitted from the secrecy of church officials.
Both men face at least two accusers each.
Both men have had, until recently, church titles and positions that help them gain access to kids.
And now that Tholen is deceased, church officials should have fewer reasons to keep the allegations against him quiet.