Clergy Abuse Details Emerge
Monterey Bishop Refers to Local Claims in Newsletter
By Alex Friedrich
San Luis Obispo Tribune
April 16, 2003
The Diocese of Monterey has released more details about its handling of clerical sexual abuse issues, including information about complaints against a handful of church employees who once worked in San Luis Obispo County.
Last fall, the diocese turned over files on five former church employees — including two priests and three lay workers — to the San Luis Obispo County district attorney.
One of them, former Pismo Beach priest Gregory Kareta, is facing felony prosecution for allegedly molesting an altar boy. Another, a former church maintenance worker, pleaded guilty to child molestation in 1997.
The three other local cases forwarded by the diocese were either too old to take to court or could not be prosecuted for other reasons.
"We reviewed them, and a determination was made that we are barred by the passage of time and the nature of the disclosures from going forward," said Larry Greene, a deputy district attorney in San Luis Obispo.
A revealing interview
Information about the local cases came to light in an article in this month's issue of The Observer, the diocesan newsletter.
Until now, only two county cases had become public — the criminal case against Kareta and a civil case against a now-deceased priest, Alberto Battagliola, who was assigned to the San Luis Obispo Mission in the 1970s.
In an interview with The Observer, Bishop Sylvester Ryan also touched on a number of subjects he had remained mum about previously, including plans for replacing a church leader who has links to an accused pedophile, creating a panel that will help investigate molestation claims, and starting a program to educate the public about proper priestly behavior.
Ryan also made vague reference to — but did not elaborate on — the cases he turned over last fall to the district attorney in San Luis Obispo.
Greene said members of his staff met with diocese representatives last summer and requested information on individuals accused of sexual misconduct with children.
"I'm confident that the diocese in Monterey has cooperated fully and completely with our request for disclosure of information," said Greene.
It is possible, however, that more cases could come to light, as additional victims come forward.
A Pismo priest
Greene is in the process of prosecuting Kareta, 79, who is accused of molesting a boy in Pismo Beach in the mid-1970s. Kareta was a priest at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Pismo Beach from 1971 to 1978. The victim was 10 when the alleged crimes began.
The District Attorney's Office already was aware of that case when it received information on Kareta from the diocese, Greene said.
Another of the five cases forwarded by the diocese involved former church maintenance worker Mark Ray Genero of Atascadero, who was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison for molesting two boys, ages 3 and 5.
That case had no other connection to the church — the crimes did not occur on church property, Greene said, and Genero's job had nothing to do with the ministry.
Prosecution of two of the other alleged offenders was barred by the statute of limitations. While there are some exceptions to the statute-of-limitations rule, those cases must involve allegations of substantial sexual misconduct. Two of the cases didn't rise to that level, Greene said.
The remaining case deals with abuse from more than 30 years ago, and the person who reported it didn't want to proceed with criminal prosecution.
"Plus, we have no information as to where the alleged offender is," said Greene. "We don't know if the offender is alive today."
Greene said those three cases — which are all at least a decade old — are not matters of public record, and it would not be appropriate for him to identify those individuals or provide information about their former positions within the church.
The diocese has not revealed names and financial figures associated with sexual abuse cases.
Monsignor loses duties
Bishop Ryan acknowledged in the interview that he had asked Monsignor Charles Fatooh, the second-highest official in the diocese, to resign over his ties to an alleged pedophile.
Fatooh, 56, stepped down Feb. 13 as both vicar general and moderator of the curia amid media questioning about his dealings with a longtime acquaintance, former Arizona-based Monsignor Robert Trupia.
Trupia, a 54-year-old clergyman suspended over pedophilia allegations in Arizona, got a consulting position with the diocese through Fatooh and later lived in a Maryland condominium owned by Fatooh.
Fatooh, who still has his priestly rights, continues to say Sunday Mass at Santa Catalina School in Monterey.
But Ryan told the Observer that the monsignor "no longer has any administrative functions for the diocese. I have directed him to take some time off to consider future pastoral options."
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