‘silence Doesn’t Work’: Man Alleges Abuse by Two Clergymen at East Bay Catholic High School
By Angela Ruggiero
Bay Area News Group
November 7, 2019
|George Houle, left, stands with his attorney Dr. Joseph George on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 in front of Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward to announce a lawsuit alleging years of sexual abuse by two clergymen at the school about 40 years ago.|
A man now in his 50s has filed lawsuit alleging that the Catholic church should have known about two clergymen who abused him as a high school student at Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward.
George Houle publicly stepped forward Wednesday and is alleging that two men during his time at Moreau in Hayward sexually abused him — Brother John Moriarty and the Rev. Gordon Wilcox, a priest who was a principal at Moreau. Both men have since died: Moriarty in 2013 and Wilcox in 1984.
Houle, now 58, was 15 when the abuse started with Moriarty, a brother who would come to Moreau to recruit students for spiritual retreats in St. Helena or elsewhere, according to the lawsuit. It was there that Moriarty became Houle’s spiritual counselor, and would provide him alcohol and question his sexual activity, the lawsuit says.
Moriarty allegedly abused Houle on multiple occasions at a retreat house in St. Helena, other retreat locations and in hot tubs, according to the lawsuit. The abuse allegedly continued for two years.
A year later in 1976, Houle had academic difficulties at school and was told Wilcox would tutor him at his private residence. It was during these tutoring sessions that Wilcox allegedly gave Houle, who was around 16 years old, alcohol and sexually abused him.
The abuse continued for months, and didn’t stop until Houle told his friends. The information was relayed to officials at Moreau, and Houle was expelled, for failing a mandatory class, the lawsuit says. Wilcox transferred to a different school.
“I was told these were men of God, that would never do such a thing, yet they did,” Houle said on Wednesday.
Being at his former high school on Wednesday for the first time in 40 years, brought back many memories and bad emotions, Houle said.
“Standing here today is emotional and scary, but I’m doing it. I’m doing it for those that are out there, who need to hear this: that you don’t have to be silent,” he said.
Houle said “silence doesn’t work,” and he hopes by sharing his story, he can inspire others who also may have been abused to come forward. It’s suspected that there are others besides Houle, including some former classmates, that also were abused.
After Moriarty’s death in 2013, Houle also informed the Christian Brothers of the abuse, but was offered only 10 therapy sessions and up to $2,200 in damages, he said.
Tim Stier, a whistleblower former priest and activist, said Wednesday that despite 40 years passing by, “justice delayed is justice denied,” and “better late than never.”
“The sexual abuse of minors is not just a thing of the past. It’s still happening in our church,” Stier said.
He referred to two priests who have been recently been accused of abuse — Fremont priest Hector David Mendoza-Vela who was sentenced in September to four years and eight months in prison; and the Rev. Alexander Castillo, who was accused of child sex abuse but fled the country in March. He has not been charged or located.
Both Wilcox and Moriarty have been named on the Oakland Diocese’s list of confirmed clergymen accused of sexual abuse that was released in February. Moriarty was also listed on the Diocese of Santa Rosa’s list of clergymen credibly accused of childhood sex abuse.
Moreau Catholic High School sent out a notice to parents about Houle’s announcement.
“Moreau Catholic High School stands with survivors of abuse and denounces those who have perpetrated these crimes,” the school said.
“We pray that the bravery of this survivor in sharing his story inspires other survivors to come forward,” the notice said.
A letter was also put out by the Congregation of Holy Cross on Wednesday.
“The Moreau Province and the Congregation of Holy Cross abhor the crime of the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable persons by priests and religious, especially if it is perpetrated by a member of our province,” wrote Brother Thomas A. Dziekan, provincial superior of the Moreau province. Both statements encouraged any victims of sexual abuse to report it to authorities.
Dziekan said the behavior is contrary to the mission of the church. “Abuse of any kind is a betrayal of that call,” he said.
The lawsuit asks for general damages for physical and mental pain, as well as past and future medical and psychotherapy.
The lawsuit is possible thanks to a law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom this year that allows victims of childhood sex abuse to file a lawsuit, regardless of their age, a one-time three-year window to bring a civil lawsuit against any perpetrator. Once the three-year window closes in 2022, the law also extends the statute of limitations for child sexual assault victims to file civil lawsuits up until their 40th birthday. Previously, lawsuits could be filed up until the victim was 26 years old.
This is the third recent lawsuit filed with the help of attorney Joseph George, who represents Houle, within the past several weeks. In October, three women filed a lawsuit alleging abuse by one of the Bay Area’s most prolific child molesters. Another lawsuit alleged abuse by a former De La Salle High School counselor and teacher.