Expert on Dealing with Abuse Accused
Bay Area Priest Faces Molestation Charge

By Don Lattin
San Francisco Chronicle
May 23, 2003

A Catholic priest facing child molesting charges in Marin County is the co-author of new church guidelines on dealing with priests who sexually abuse children.

The Rev. Gregory Ingels, who also is a church lawyer, is scheduled to appear Wednesday in Marin County Superior Court on charges that he had oral sex with a 15-year-old boy from Marin Catholic High School in the summer of 1972, two years before he was ordained.

Ingels was one of only four experts chosen by the Canon Law Society of America to advise U.S. bishops on abusive clerics. And for the past two decades, he worked on the tribunal of the archdiocese, which considers requests for marriage annulments by Catholics in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties.

According to a one-count criminal complaint filed May 12, Ingels engaged in "substantial sexual conduct" with a child under age 16.

The boy, who was student of Ingels' at the time and now lives in Sonoma County, was allegedly molested during a family gathering in Muir Beach.

"Who would have ever suspected that?" said the Rev. Robert Silva, president of the National Federation of Priests' Councils, who knows the accused priest. "I was stunned."

According to the complaint, Ingels made many incriminating statements to the victim during recent conversations that were tape-recorded by police.

Those statements included: "What I did to you was terrible" and "I did this to you, (and) it was an authority issue."


Ingels also apologized to the victim on the tape, said he was ashamed of himself and offered the victim -- now in his late 40s -- the services of a psychologist.

Nearly a year ago, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops met in Dallas, amid an ever-widening scandal over abusive priests and bishops who covered up their crimes.

At that meeting, the bishops adopted a new national policy which directs that priests or deacons be permanently removed from ministry for committing "even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor -- past, present and future."

Five months later, at another meeting in Washington, the bishops revised their "zero tolerance" policy to meet Vatican objections, protect the rights of accused priests and bring the new rules in line with existing church law.

Ingels was one of four canon lawyers who served on a task force formed to translate the bishops' policies into church law.

Their 47-page guide, titled "Guide to the Implementation of the U.S. Bishops' Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons," was published in March.

It outlines procedures to protect the rights of victims and accused priests, while advising local bishops of their responsibilities under the new rules.


Ingels was ordained as a priest in May 1974 but started teaching at Marin Catholic High School as a deacon about two years before that.

Maurice Healy, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said local church leaders first heard of the 1972 allegation against Ingels in mid-1996.

At the time, the church investigated, but Ingels was allowed to continue his ministry.

Two years ago, Ingels was named director of formation for the permanent diaconate, and continued his work with the tribunal. "Every allegation is unique," Healy said. "It may have been handled differently if there had been more than one allegation."

Ingels' church file was among those turned over to local prosecutors in May 2002, as pressure mounted on local bishops to reveal all past allegations of child molestation by priests.


Healy said the canon lawyer was removed from that post last October and ordered by Archbishop William Levada to go on leave.

Until earlier this month, however, Ingels continued to work on cases for the tribunal, and to celebrate Mass at St. Bartholomew Church in San Mateo.

Healy said Ingels' tribunal work only involved contact with the judicial vicar of the archdiocese, and was done off-site at his residence near St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park.

Healy said internal review was still under way when the criminal charges were filed last week.

Only then, Healy said, was Ingels told to stop celebrating Mass and to stop working on new cases before the tribunal.

Ingels was criminally charged under a controversial state law that allows some sex crimes to be filed beyond the normal statute of limitations.

Under the law, which is now being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court, local prosecutors have one year to filed charges after an allegation is first made.

"We do not believe that the legal system will be able to address what allegedly occurred over 30 years ago," said Ingels' attorney, Arthur Wachtel.

Last week, another Catholic priest was arraigned in Marin County Superior Court on 42-year-old charges that he molested a 10-year-old girl at Our Lady of Loretto Parish in Novato in 1961.

The retired 72-year-old priest, the Rev. Arthur Harrison, told the Marin Independent Journal, "Most of it is false."



Because of erroneous information provided by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, an article Friday misstated the date of Father Gregory Ingles' last Mass at St. Bartholomew Church. Ingles, who has been charged with child molestation in Marin County, last said Mass on the Fourth of July weekend in 2002.


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