Lawyers Ask for List of All Accused Priests

By Kristin Bender
Oakland Tribune
January 17, 2003

Attorneys representing hundreds who say they were victimized by priests, and the head of a support group for survivors of clergy sexual abuse have asked the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland to release the names of all accused priests during the past 40 years.

The request comes as attorneys for three men who say they were sexually molested by a Concord priest in the mid-1960s filed lawsuits Thursday against the Oakland diocese, which already faces several suits.

Representing a half-million congregants in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, the diocese oversees more than 80 parishes and 60 schools in those counties.

The lawsuits, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, accuse Father Arthur Ribeiro, a priest at Queen of All Saints parish in Concord from 1962 to 1982, of sexually preying on three boys in his flock. The suit, which identifies the men only as "John Does" now in their 50s, requests damages for medical expenses, lost wages and incidentals.

Though he won't give his name, one plaintiff spoke publicly Thursday about the trouble he has faced stemming from two molestations.

"I'm healing," the 54-year-old Lafayette man said. "But what I'm hoping to gain is that this won't happen again. I have a 20-year-old son [who will presumably have children of his own], and it can happen to boys and girls."

The man said he contacted attorneys last year after decades of shame and guilt. He said he was twice sexually molested at age 14 by Ribeiro, who died more than two years ago and was removed from the ministry in 1996.

"I thought that it only happened to me. I thought I was the only one who it happened to," he said. "I'm here because it is part of my [healing] to hear his name spoken as a predator and as a multiple predator."

The man said that as a teen he reported Ribeiro to another priest shortly after the incident, but no action was ever taken. Ribeiro went on sick leave in 1982 and was confronted about the sexual misconduct by two priests in 1996. He was later removed from a diocese retirement center and told he could never celebrate Mass again.

Thursday's lawsuits were filed under a law that took effect Jan. 1, eliminating time limits and allows molestation victims of many years ago to take legal action.

The suits were filed by Hayward attorney Rick Simons, David Drivon of Stockton and Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minn. Drivon obtained the first damage award against the Catholic Church in California in 1998. The other two plaintiffs are from out of state, attorneys said.

On Thursday, attorneys also hand-delivered a letter to newly appointed Oakland diocese Bishop Allen Vigneron asking the diocese to release the records and "pledge and commit to full cooperation with law enforcement and all other child protection agencies."

"I think it is more than time for the Oakland diocese to come clean with the congregants and their parishes and publish a list of all of these people from the past who have all these allegations against them," said Terrie Light a Castro Valley victim and the Northern California head of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

"I don't think it should require pulling teeth and having victims go public at press conferences to get this news out publicly about these priests who were obviously known child molesters."

Vigneron, who will be welcomed into the diocese Feb. 26, is still working at the Archdiocese of Detroit and was not available to comment, but Sister Barbara Flannery, the diocese chancellor, said she would call Vigneron to discuss the new request.

"We have not made the names of the offenders public, but we have reported to local police the names of the offenders who we know about. We don't have any secrets with our local police."

Twenty-three priests have been reported to authorities since 1962 after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced, Flannery said.

Flannery did not say when or if the names of remaining accused priests would be released to the public.

However, she said she personally and the diocese itself have apologized to victims. Flannery, who heads the diocese's reconciliation program for victims of sexual abuse by priests, was the person to whom the original Ribeiro accuser confessed in 1996. He was a friend of her brother's at the time, she said.

"I think survivors need to do what they need to do for their own personal healing because they have been rejected by the church [with sexual abuse] and the only way they are going to heal is to do something that is going to make the church take notice," she said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.