Two lawsuits filed against Oakland Diocese allege child abuse at Union City church in the 1970s

By Thomas Peele
Bay Area News Group viaMercury News
December 31, 2019

Former Priest Stephen Kiesle, of Pinole Calif. stands outside Dept 22 after his hearing Thursday afternoon June 26, 2003 in Martinez Calif. Story about priest molestation cases getting tossed out by Judges. Kiesle who is out on custody will have to come back for another hearing.

One of the priests named in the suits was not on a list of abusive priests the diocese released in February

Two people who say they were sexually abused as children by a pair of Catholic priests at a Union City church in the 1970s sued the Diocese of Oakland on Tuesday alleging it helped cover up their exploitation.

“This has wrecked my entire life, every aspect of my life” one of the victims, James Brogen, said at a press conference announcing the suits. “It’s hard to feel like a survivor when you’re still suffering.”

The suits allege that diocese officials worked to hide abuse at Our Lady of the Rosary church in Union City in the 1970s involving two priests, Stephen Kiesle and George E. Crespin.

Brogen, who grew up in what his suit described as a devout Catholic family in Hayward, called Our Lady of the Rosary a “house of evil.”

The Bishop of the Oakland Diocese, Michael Barber, did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuits Tuesday.

Kiesle, of Pinole, served a six-year prison sentence for molesting a young girl at his Truckee vacation home, and was convicted in 1978 of molesting two boys while working at Our Lady of the Rosary, according to reports in this newspaper in 2005. He is now defrocked.

Crespin later became a high-ranking diocese official and served as a retired priest until 2011 at St. Joseph the Worker in Berkeley. He is now a priest in residence at St. Cornelius Church in Richmond, according to the church’s website.

The allegation against Crespin was cleared by the Diocese because it said there was a lack of evidence. In 2005 this news organization reported that the church paid $600,000 to settle a lawsuit against him as part of a $56.4 million “global settlement” with victims of childhood sexual abuse by priests. Crespin was not included on a list of 45 abusive priests released by the diocese in February.

The suits were filed In Alameda County Superior Court under a new state law, AB, 2018, which extended for three years the deadline to sue over priest abuse, and also extended the age of eligible victims from 26 to 40. The lead attorney, Jeff Anderson, has also filed suits in Southern California and is planning to legal action against nine other California dioceses and one religious order in the coming weeks. He is planning to announce a lawsuit against the Diocese of Salinas on Wednesday.

Brian Barnes, a victim whose lawsuit is expected to be filed next month, said the abuse he suffered from Kiesle when he was 11 years old is something “I kept to myself for decades.”

“I kept this dark secret,” he said. “As a child I lost my faith.”

Coming forward Tuesday, Barnes said while standing before large photos of Crespin and Kiesle, “is one of the hardest things I’ve done.” But he said he was motivated by the fact that he has three teenage daughters and wants to keep them and other children safe.

Attorney Rick Simons said Kiesle was “known as the Pied Piper. Where ever he went, the kids would follow him around.”

Kiesle has been accused of molesting dozens of children between 1972 and 1995. He left the priesthood in 1981, but the Vatican didn’t defrock him until 1987.

Crespin became an Oakland Diocese official after leaving the Union City church. Anderson said in a statement that Crespin concealed “from law enforcement reports of clergy sex abuse by other priests” while “failing to note accusations in the priests’ personnel files.”

The suits come as state Attorney General Xavier Becerra has opened a state-wide investigation of priest sexual abuse and is subpoenaing records from 12 diocese in the state.

The investigation and legal actions cannot come quick enough for Brogen.

The abuses, he said “have got to stop.”



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