Oakland diocese settles sex-misconduct suit for $3.5 million
By George Kelly
Livermore pastor removed from ministry, but church offers no admission of wrongdoing
Bay Area News Group
December 13, 2020
A civil lawsuit anonymously filed last year against the Diocese of Oakland by a former seminarian over alleged sexual misconduct by an East Bay pastor reached a settlement late last month, authorities said.
In a statement last week, the diocese said the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office did not file charges despite a Livermore police investigation. Church officials added that Father Van Dinh, the former pastor of Livermore’s St. Michael’s Catholic Parish, was not a defendant in last month’s settlement of the suit “which had no finding or admission of liability by Dinh or by the diocese.”
“Bishop Michael Barber, SJ, has removed Dinh from ministry; he is not able to function as a priest in any capacity,” the statement said in part. “He is on leave and receives the normal compensation from the Diocese.”
On November 21, 2017, Livermore police began investigating Dinh in the wake of an alleged Nov. 17 incident at the church rectory. Dinh had been installed as St. Michael’s pastor in September 2014.
“The allegation did not involve a minor, but did fall within the protocol of the Diocese for clergy conduct,” a statement from the diocese said in part at that time. “The Diocese of Oakland considers all allegations of clergy misconduct serious.”
The diocese said it serves about 400,000 Catholics in 84 parishes spread over two counties.
In statements last week, lawyer, Sandra Ribera Speed, said multiple factors led to her client’s agreement to settle, including not only the church’s reluctance to participate in a Zoom-based trial next month, but church officials’ threats to depose the former seminarian’s parents.
“They knew nothing about his abuse,” Ribera Speed said. “He did not tell his parents, who still attend church. Their faith is all they have in these trying times … He didn’t want to take away what was taken away from him.”
In a separate statement, the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) praised the seminarian’s fortitude.
“We are grateful to this brave victim for coming forward and sharing his story,” SNAP said in part. “We hope that now Catholic officials in Oakland will be forced to reckon with the culture within their diocese that allowed this abuse to happen in the first place.”