The Salesian Province of San Francisco – A Loyal Nest of Accused Child Molesters
By Joey Piscitelli
November 25, 2018
|St. Peter and Pauls Church & School, San Francisco
|Salesian High School, Richmond, Ca.
For the last 60 years, the Salesian Province of San Francisco, or Don Bosco West, has harbored, transferred, and enabled a nest of convicted, accused, and admitted child molesters on the West Coast.
The Salesian Province based in San Francisco, or “Don Bosco West”, is the headquarters of the Salesians for the Western half of the United States. It is the first Salesian Province to be established in the USA. In 1897 the head of the Salesian order in Italy sent a group of Salesian Priests to San Francisco, led by Fr. Ralph Piperni.
Pipernis group met at the Italian church, St. Peter and Pauls, in San Francisco. They later met with the Bishop of San Francisco, Patrick Riordan, at the SF Diocese headquarters Mansion at 1100 Franklin Street, to establish the Salesians in San Francisco. St. Peter and Pauls became the headquarters for the Salesians at that time. The Mansion on Franklin Street later became the headquarters for the Salesian Province of San Francisco, now referred to also as Don Bosco West. It remains the headquarters for the Salesian Province of the West today, and it is also a residence for Salesian priests. Numerous Salesian accused child molesters and rapists have lived there in the last 50 years, and the Salesian order does not not release the list of names of accused predators that live there to the public, or to several nearby schools to warn them of their presence.
In 1927, the Salesian Society purchased the Emeric Mansion and estate property in Richmond, California, 20 miles across the bay from the Salesian Provincial in San Francisco. This property is now called Salesian High School. In 1935, the mansion and property became a Salesian seminary & school, where several teen students reported being molested. The mansion is also a residence for Salesian priests, and is located about one hundred feet from the school building. The property is also the location for the Salesian Cemetery. The property was changed into an all boys high school campus in 1960, and the Salesian Boys Club was established on the west side of the property as well.
Former students of the seminary 1959 class were interviewed after their class reunion in 1999, and seven of the fifteen students who attended disclosed they were sexually molested as teens at the seminary school, per Mike Perry, former Salesian clergy member who was there at the time.
Former students also report that several Salesian clergy that were later transferred to other Salesian schools, facilities and Salesian camps, raped and molested boys at the Salesian seminary school beforehand. Reports of this sex abuse activity were reported to a Salesian Provincial, Fr. Alfred Cogliandro in the early 1960’s. Former student George Stein, a victim who was molested by Fr. Bernard Dabbene, was one of the students who reported sex abuse activity at the seminary to Provincial Fr. Cogliandro, and later to the Richmond Police Department.
Seven clergy members who are accused of molesting boys at Salesian schools in the 1950’s to 1960’s – Fr. Bernard Dabbene, Fr. Larry Lorenzoni, Br. John Vas, Br. Sal Billante, Fr. Innocenti Clementi, Fr. Titian Miani, and Fr. Simcic – all stayed in ministry after the incidents. Fr. Dabenne and Br. Billante were both later convicted of child sexual abuse.
The Salesian Society of San Francisco proudly refers to itself as “The Salesian Family.” Ironically the Salesian perpetrators of child sex abuse, and their Salesian Provincial heads in San Francisco certainly have also conducted themselves as a “Family”. Survivors of molestation by Salesians refer to this Salesian family scornfully as a “Salesian Family of sex abusers, and their enablers.”
For over half a century, Salesian clergy who evolved from this family core in the Bay Area, that became leaders as Provincials, have loyally protected and enabled accused Salesian molesters who were in their nest. Those Provincials include; Fr. Alfred Cogliandro, Fr. John Malloy, Fr. Walter Rassmussen, Fr. David Purdy, Fr. Nick Reina, and also Fr. Ted Monteymayor, who is the Salesian Provincial today.
The Bay Area triangle of the Salesian Provincial building on Franklin Street in San Francisco, St. Peter and Pauls Church, and Salesian High School in Richmond, has been the epic center of ping-ponging the Salesian nest of clergy abusers back and forth to the three locations since the 1950’s.
In 2005, a nest of five accused molesters were listed as holding positions of responsibility at the Salesian Provincial House on Franklin Street, and St. Peter and Pauls. That list included a convicted sex abuser. A sixth priest that was later found liable for sex molestation by jury trial was Pastor at St. Peter and Pauls church at the same time. Those priests were Fr. Larry Lorenzoni, Br. Ernie Martinez, Fr. Bernard Dabbene, Fr. Richard Presenti, Fr. Harold Danielson, and Fr. Steve Whelan.
Although Fr. Dabbene was reported to the Provincial Cogliandro for molestation at the seminary in 1959, Dabbene was continually transferred and promoted. In 1968, eight years after he was first reported to the Salesian Province for sex abuse, Fr. Dabbenne returned to the Salesian school when it was a high school, and he was promoted to be the High School Principal. The Provincial transferred Fr. Dabbene to another Salesian school as principal in 1993, at Corpus Christi in San Francisco.
In 1971, Bishop Begin of the Diocese of Oakland, sent a counselor, Margaret Mutti, to Salesian High school to talk to troubled students. A student who had been molested told Ms. Mutti that Fr. Dabbene, Br. Sal Billante, and Fr. Whelan were touching the boys. Ms. Mutti told Fr. Dabbene what the student had said, and Fr. Dabbenne threatened to kick the boy out of school if he did not keep his mouth shut. In 1972, Fr. David Purdy, school administrator at the time, tried talking the same sexual molestation victim into suicide. This was reported to the Diocese of Oakland as well.
Fr. Dabbene was later promoted to be the top liaison priest for Bishop William Levada in San Francisco. In 2000, while Dabbenne was in office as the top liaison official, he was caught in his car actively molesting a minor, and was arrested for sex abuse, and was convicted.
Fr. David Purdy, who had tried to persuade the sex abuse victim at the school to commit suicide, was later promoted in 2002 to be the Provincial head of Don Bosco West in San Francisco. It was then he proceeded to enable numerous accused child molesters and rapists that he had lived and roomed with at Salesian Richmond to continue in ministry.
In 2003, a lawsuit was filed against Fr. Steve Whelan, who was a pastor at St. Peter and Pauls church and grammar school, at the time of the lawsuit. Fr. Whelan was accused of sex abuse at Salesian school in Richmond. Fr. Purdy kept Whelan in ministry for 3 years at the grammar school as the suit wound through the court system. Whelan and the Salesians lost the suit. Fr Whelan was then placed in ministry at another Salesian School, Don Bosco Hall, in the Bay Area, and remains there today in 2018.
Fr. Larry Lorenzoni, who was first accused of molestation at the Salesian seminary in Richmond, in 1959, became a Salesian celebrity. He wrote books, and appeared on radio stations in the city. He was a representative for Salesian events, and well known in the San Francisco area. Transferred back and forth in California, Lorenzoni was sued by multiple accusers in 2003 for molestations throughout the state. A settlement was paid, and Lorenzoni was shuffled to and from the Provincial, and back to St. Peter and Pauls.
Admitted serial molester Fr. Richard Presenti, who has also had several molestation victims, was an administrator at Salesian High school, and is an admitted sex offender. Fr. Presenti was sued multiple times as well, and is now still listed as in residence at Salesian Provincial Building in San Francisco in 2018.
Br. Danilo Pacheco, a teacher at the Salesian school for 16 years, is accused of raping and molesting several boys in the school library, and in other buildings on the grounds. He also molested other students at other Salesians schools in Southern California, and was sued multiple times.
Br. John Vas, was accused of continuously raping and molesting boys at the Salesian school, and also molesting little girls at Salesian camps.
At the Salesian Boys Club, which is on the Salesian High School property, known child rapist Br. Sal Billante was made the cleric in charge of the Boys Club. Br. Billante took explicit photos of under-aged children, and sexually molested dozens of kids at the school, at Salesian camps, and at Corpus Christi Church in San Francisco. Billante was sued by several dozen victims, and was convicted for multiple accounts of molestation against many kids all over the Bay Area. Billante has over 50 sexually abused child victims. He was sentenced to 8 years at San Quentin federal prison. Two of Br. Billante’s victims are said to have committed suicide after they were abused by him. As Fr. David Purdy, the former principal at Salesian High School was accused in a court deposition of attempting to persuade a sex abuse victim into committing suicide, some speculate that there may be a dark connection.
Fr. Titian Miani, serial Salesian rapist, was placed at the school in Richmond several times, from 1966 to 1972. He is accused of first molesting students in the 1950’s. He was shuffled all over California to various Salesians schools were he molested dozens of kids. He was originally reported to Salesian officials in Italy, when he began to molest children there, before he came to the US. Then he was transferred to Edmonton Canada, where he sexually abused kids there. Then he was transferred to Salesian in Richmond, and Salesian camps, where he molested minors again. Then he was sent to Bellflower Ca, where he raped both girls and boys.
Shortly afterwards, in a horrifying display of depravity, Fr. Innocenti Clementi who was accused of molesting a girl in Florida, was transferred to Salesian High in Richmond in 1968, where he was accused of hiding out. In addition, Fr. Titian Miani, who was accused of molesting a girl and a boy at Salesian school in Bellflower, Ca, was transferred at the same time to Salesian Richmond again, where he was also accused of hiding out. While Miani was in the Bay Area, he went back to St. Peter and Pauls in San Francisco, and is accused of raping a 6th grade girl there multiple times. After Miani had raped the girl at St. Peter and Pauls, and other locations, he was later sued. When Miani was being sued in court in LA for multiple acts of molestation, Salesian Provincial Fr. John Malloy vouched for Fr. Miani and stated that Miani was “a model priest.”
Salesian Provincials and officials of Don Bosco West continuously aided and enabled Miani the entire time, after they had knowledge of his history of sexual abuse as far back as 1949.
In 2006, the Salesians paid $19 million to settle lawsuits in California by 17 victims. Also in 2006, the Salesians lost a court jury trial in the Bay Area for $650,000, and settled a suit for $750,000 in Oakland.
In 2008, Salesian lay teacher Rick Bonds was arrested and convicted for repeated molestation of a teen girl at the school. He was sued as well. In 2013, the Salesian girls team coach, Toussaint Taylor, was barred from the school after he was discovered in an online sex ad.
Br. Ernie Martinez was accused of molestation at a Salesian school, and sued in Los Angeles in a group settlement. A settlement was paid to victims of Salesians by Cardinal Mahony in 2006. Ernie Martinez was shuffled to Salesian Richmond, and back to St. Peter and Pauls, and to the Provincial building. Then he was sent again to St, Peter and Pauls, where he remains in 2018, and has access to children there now.
Fr. Al Mengon, also a former Salesian seminarian, and a teacher at the Salesian school in Richmond, was involved in a sex abuse scandal in the school library in 1974. He was also accused of molesting a young teen girl from Richmond at a Salesian camp in 1971.
Accused child molesters and rapists who roomed with Fr. Al Mengon when he was sent to the Salesian Richmond residence, at the High School site, are Fr. Miani, Br. Billante, Fr. Clementi, Fr. Whelan, Br. Pacheco, and Fr. Lorenzoni.
It is estimated that these six priests are accused of raping and sexually molesting over 200 children.
Fr. Mengon was transferred after the incidents at the library and the camp, to a Salesian school with kids in Sierra Leone, Africa. After unknown behavior there, he was then transferred back to St. Peter and Pauls church and grammar school. He is now a Pastor at the grammar school location in 2018, and has access to kids there today, along with accused Salesian molester Br. Ernie Martinez. Keeping in tradition with the Salesian policy of enabling their nest of accused child sex abusers for at least 60 years, the Salesians apparently have not learned from their past. Fr. Mengon enjoys free reign at the school, alongside vulnerable children, with permission of Salesian Provincial Ted Montemayor, and the school principal, who both vouch for him as “safe”. Survivors of Salesian sex abuse remind the school principal, Provincial Ted Montemayer, and the principal, that an innocent young 11 year old girl at St. Peter and Pauls says she was continuously sexually abused at the school by another accused Salesian child molester, who the Salesians felt was safe enough to be at St. Peter and Pauls.
The Nest of accused Salesian sex abusers, who have been “ping-ponged” back and
forth, under the jurisdiction of Don Bosco West, headquartered in San Francisco are:
Fr. Bernard Dabbene – convicted, sued
Br. Sal Billante – convicted, sued
Fr. Mario Blanco – sued
Mr. Rick Bonds – convicted, sued
Fr. Innocenti Clementi – sued
Fr. Harold Danielson – sued
Br. Mark Epperson – sued
Fr. Emanuel Jiminez – sued
Br. Anthony Juarez – sued
Fr. Larry Lorenzoni – sued
Br. Ernest Martinez – sued
Fr. Al Mengon – accused, named in depositions
Fr. Titian Miani – sued
Br. Ralph Murguia – sued
Br. Dan Pacheco – sued
Fr. Richard Presenti – admitted, sued
Fr. Jaun Sanchez – sued
Fr. Simcic – accused
Br. John Vas – accused, police reports
Br. John Verhart – sued
Mr. Sam Vitone – sued
Fr. Gerald Wertz – sued
Fr. Steven Whelan – sued, lost court jury trial for child molestation
In an ironic and disturbing tribute, serial molesters Fr. Bernard Dabbene, and Fr. Larry Lorenzoni, who had both started their spree of child sex abuse at Salesian seminary in the 1950’s – were both buried in the cemetery there on the school campus, a few feet away from where they had first sexually abused kids over half a century ago. A Salesian Provincial who enabled them, Fr. John Malloy, is buried next to them.
Their final transfer by the Salesian Society, to their eternal destination, proved to be ironic and macabre.
If you are a Salesian sex abuse victim, and you need help, or information,
phone # 925-262-3699