Retired San Diego Priest Paul Palmitessa on List of Priests Accused of Sexual Abuse

By Michael Chen
The 10 News
December 7, 2013

SANTEE, Calif. - The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego is under fire after the name of a retired priest surfaced on a list of priests accused of sexual abuse against children.

Abuse survivors want to know why Paul Palmitessa's name wasn't released on earlier lists and why he was allowed to work in San Diego County as a priest -- even as the national abuse scandal was playing out.

"My heart drops. My stomach turns," said Paul Livingston, who heads the San Diego chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

That was Livingston's reaction after learning Palmitessa's name emerged in a court-ordered release of 34 credible cases of child sex abuse accusations in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

"My question is how many more names do we have coming up?" said Livingston.

According to the local diocese, in 1982, Palmitessa was accused of making a sexual advance toward a 15-year-old boy in Minnesota.

It's unclear why, but prosecutors declined to charge him, instead requiring him to undergo counseling for two years.

Palmitessa moved to San Diego in 1982, but the case wasn't revealed to church officials until 1990 when the alleged victim contacted the church.

The diocese said Palmitessa was sent for an evaluation and several years of counseling and allowed to serve, with the restriction he couldn't be alone with boys or young men.

Palmitessa, 82, retired in 1998, but continued to have limited duties up until five years ago when he stopped performing priestly functions because of age.

"There have been many cases where the priests have been restricted and they continue to abuse. It 's been noted across the country," said Livingston.

In a statement, local diocese officials said Palmitessa was "permitted to remain in ministry upon the advice of several outside mental health professionals. No accusations of any kind were ever made against him while in San Diego."

10News knocked on the door of Palmitessa's Santee apartment but got no answer.

A lingering question remains: Why wasn't his name released when the San Diego diocese released 38 priest names in 2007 as part of a bankruptcy proceeding?

"This is sickening. They have the personnel files. Why did they subject more kids to dangerous people?" said Livingston.

Local diocese officials said they only released cases that were prosecuted or involved multiple allegations.

As for Palmitessa, the diocese said they just learned from Minnesota diocesan officials that the claims were credible, and they have now officially banned him from any priestly functions.

Palmitessa served at five different parishes while in San Diego County:

1982-1984 Our Mother of Confidence, San Diego

1984-1992 St. Didacus, San Diego

1992-1993 St. Rose of Lima, Chula Vista

1993-1994 St. Francis, Vista

1994-1998 Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, R. Penasquitos


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