Over the last twenty years, the Roman Catholic Church has been scrutinized in every state, including California, for how they predatory priests. Many of these religious sexual abusers targeted their victims at Catholic schools, parishes, summer camps, Church-related functions, and sporting events. To date, in California, over 700 Catholic religious leaders have credible allegations that they sexually molested young adults and underage children.
In 2019, California Governor Newsom signed a new bill into law extending the civil lawsuit. In response, many of these victims are now seeking financial compensation against those who sexually harmed them. In some cases, the sexual abuse survivors have added the Catholic Church as a defendant in their suits because officials hid the evidence.
Roman Catholic Fresno Dioceses Sexual Abuse Attorneys
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has helped many sexual abuse survivors pursue justice and obtain financial compensation to recover their damages. If you have been harmed, we are here to listen to your story in a confidential setting. Let us protect your rights. We can use California tort laws to ensure that your case is resolved successfully.
Diocese of Fresno Slow to Respond
In January 2020, the Diocese of Fresno faced a civil lawsuit for their failure to respond to allegations involving sexual assault by a clergy member. The alleged victim accused Reverend Anthony Marino in 1979 and 1980 of sexual assault when the victim was a young boy.
The Diocese says that they are still working on releasing a list of priests accused of sexual misconduct. The newly enacted law allows survivors to move forward by taking legal action against the Church and sexual offenders. Many of these cases are built on the secrecy of Church officials concealing the abuse or enabling the predator’s abusive behavior.
List of Clergy Members with Credible Evidence of Sexual Assault in the Fresno Diocese
An article dated December 2003 revealed a civil lawsuit filed by a female plaintiff accusing Father John Bradley of abusing her for five months during the time she was pregnant. The woman claims that her family sent her away to Fresno, CA, while pregnant at seventeen years old to live with friends during the 1960s. While at her friend’s home, Reverend Bradley, a Saint Agnes mission priest, sexually assaulted her during her pregnancy. The priest’s name is not found after 1970 in any official Catholic directory.
Current Status: Named in a lawsuit.
Brown (BP), Tod D.
Father Tod D. Brown served as the Boise City, Idaho Diocese Bishop between 1989 and 1998, and the Bishop of the Diocese of Orange between 1998 and 2012. In 2007, a male victim stepped forward, making allegations that Bishop Brown had sexually assaulted him in 1965 in Bakersfield when he was a twelve-year-old boy. The victim showed copies of correspondence he had with the Diocese of Fresno in 1997, accusing Reverend Brown of sexual assault. In 2002, the victim also corresponded with Cardinal Mahoney. By 2007, during a deposition, Brown admitted that the Church had investigated the accusations made against him. However, the Reverend denied the allegations and retired from ministry in 2012.
Current Status: Retired 2012
Campbell, Stuart Bede
A court case filed in 2003 or 2004 in Fresno County accused Father Stuart Bede Campbell of sexually assaulting innocent victims from 1956 through 1959, before the creation of the Diocese of Monterey. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles updated list from 2018 notes that Church officials became aware of the Reverend’s inappropriate sexual behavior as early as 2010. These incidents allegedly occurred in 1956/59 and between 1978 and 1980. The priest’s name appears on the 2019 Reno Diocese’s list, 2019 Las Vegas Diocese’s list, and the 2019 Columbus Diocese’s list.
Current Status: Died 1982 or 1986
Ceniza, Hermy Dave O.
In April 2010, a civil lawsuit revealed allegations against Father Hermy Dave O. Ceniza accusing the priest of abusing and stalking a youth around 1991 while he was at the Bakersfield’s St. Francis Church. After receiving a call and meeting with the accuser, Fresno Diocese Bishop Steinbock promised that Reverend Ceniza would be removed from ministry. However, the accuser found out later that Ceniza maintained his religious faculties and priesthood duties and ministers in the Philippines. The lawsuit alleges that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno committed fraud.
Current Status: Named in a Civil Lawsuit
In December 2003, an adult female filed a lawsuit making allegations that Fresno Diocese Father James Collins had sexually assaulted her in the early 1960s for five years. At the time, she was a parishioner at Buttonwillow St. Mary’s Church. Catholic Church records revealed that Father Collins worked at Lemoore and Avenal churches. In August 2006, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno settled a lawsuit involving Reverend Collins for $875,000.
Current Status: Lawsuit settled for $875,000
In May 2019, Church officials placed Father Raul Diaz on leave from his assignment at the Dinuba St Catherine’s Parish. The Church was investigating allegations of Reverend Diaz sexually assaulting underage children. Local law enforcement informed the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno.
Current Status: Accused
In June 2019, Father John Esquivel faced public allegations that he sexually molested an underage girl during the mid-1980s when she was seventeen or eighteen years old. The complainant states that the incidents of abuse occurred at the Bakersfield St. Joseph’s Parish. Church officials suspended Reverend Esquivel months after the investigation started. His accuser alleges that the Reverend groped her, verbally abused her, and kissed her with his open mouth. At the time of the incident, the victim worked as his secretary. Information released by SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) revealed that Reverend Esquivel sexually assaulted three other female accusers. At the time of those molestation incidents, two of the girls were sixteen years old. Some of the victims stated that they had reported what had happened to another priest, likely in 1992. However, neither the priest nor the Church took any action. In January 2020, two of the female victims filed a lawsuit claiming Father John Esquivel had sexually assaulted them when they were teens. As of 2020, the Reverend remains in active ministry.
Current Status: Named in a civil lawsuit
In 2002, Bolivia-ordained Father Miguel Flores from Guadalajara, Mexico faced accusations that he sexually molested a sixteen-year-old female between January 2002 and February 2002. The young girl worked as a parish office assistant in Hanford and Tranquility. In August 2002, Reverend Flores was acquitted of charges including forcible rape, sex with an underage child, and threatening and intimidating a witness. Church officials allowed the priest to return to ministry. In 2019, the case was reopened after new credible evidence arose. At that time, the Reverend was placed on leave. In February 2020, the victim filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno based on the California Child Victims Act.
In 2003, Philippine-native Father Benjamin Gabriel faced accusations that he had sexually assaulted an underage child at the Earlimart Saint Jude Parish during the 1970s. The incidents of inappropriate sexual behavior allegedly lasted two years. Church document shows that Reverend Gabriel had not been assigned to a parish after 1980.
Current Status: Apparently Retired 1986
Local law enforcement investigated alleged Internet-related sex crimes involving an underage male. The police seized the priest’s computers at the Los Banos St. Joseph Parish’s rectory, where the Reverend had been assigned since 2009. A police report indicated that parishioners had become uncomfortable with the Reverend’s behavior toward underage males. The report indicates that Reverend Gamel had rubbed the back of a sleeping teenager and hugged an underage child in a single-person restroom. Church officials removed Gamel from ministry in August 2014. Two years later, in March 2016, the Reverend pled no contest on charges that he possessed child pornography. The court sentenced Gamel to a “less than one-year” jail sentence followed by four years of probation. The judge ordered Gamel to register as a sex offender. Father Gamel’s personnel records indicate that the Church had previously assigned him to the Bakersfield Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Ridgecrest Saint Ann’s Parish, and Boron St. Joseph’s Parish. He also worked at Oildale St. Joseph’s Mission and Christ the King parishes and the California City Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. In December 2016, California Corrections released Gamel from jail. However, less than four months later, the priest was arrested again on new charges of possessing child pornography. The following month, the Reverend pled not guilty, filed by a plea of no contest by the end of the year. Gamel received a four-year prison sentence. However, he was released from prison in April 2019.
Current Status: Released from prison 2019
Garcia, Louis Aloysius
Diocese of Fresno’s Father Louis Aloysius Garcia faced allegations of sexually assaulting several developmentally disabled residents at Portersville State Hospital between May 1979 and August 1980. At the time, Reverend Louis Garcia was a chaplain. As a result of the allegations, criminal charges were filed, and civil litigation began. The case was referred to the California Court of Appeals. In 1983, the court sentenced Reverend Louis Garcia to six years in prison. The 1998 Catholic directory indicates that Garcia remains on sick leave and, as of 2011, is a registered California sex offender.
Current Status: Registered as a sex offender
In April 2019, Church officials placed Monsignor Craig Harrison on leave due to an investigation that he had inappropriate sexual contact with an underage male from the time the boy was 14 to 16 years old. The incident had occurred decades before in Firebaugh. The Diocese of Fresno became aware of the incident in April 2012 and contacted law enforcement three days later. At the time, the Monsignor denied the accusations and received overwhelming support from the Bakersfield community. However, by April 2019, two additional males came forward and alleged that Reverend Harrison had sexually assaulted them when they were minors. One of those reported the incidents two authorities in 1998 and 2002, claiming that Harrison had sexually assaulted him in 1998 in Firebaugh. That same year, the Fresno Diocese investigated and deemed the accusations unsubstantiated. In August 2019, Harrison filed a civil lawsuit against the Roma Catholic Faithful for their publicized claims that the priest had abused innocent victims in Firebaugh. In 2019, the Mercer County District Attorney’s Office did not file charges against Reverend Craig Harrison, stating that the statute of limitations had expired. In February 2020, the Fresno District Attorney’s Office stated they would also not file charges but indicated that the allegations against the Reverend appeared credible.
Current Status: Accused of sexual misconduct
Herdegen, Anthony G.
In December 2003, two victims sued Father Anthony G. Herdegen over accusations that he had sexually assaulted them. The reverend assaulted when underage minor when he was between five and nineteen years old and the other underage boy when he was between ten and fifteen years old. These sexual assault incidents began in 1959. The local District Attorney’s Office did not file criminal charges due to the expiration of the California statute of limitations. However, in May 2008, the Appeals Court ruled that the victim’s lawsuit could move forward because the Fresno Diocese Cardinal’s testimony revealed that the Catholic Church was aware or should have been aware that Reverend Herdegen was an abuser. The California Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal on stopping the case from going forward. In March 2009, the trial started. The following month, the jury’s verdict favored the side of the Diocese of Fresno. The jury’s decision was based on the laws involving the expiration of the statute of limitations. One of the victims received a new trial, and the other victim received a settlement through the Diocese of Fresno.
Current Status: One case settled
In January 2020, a filed civil lawsuit accused Father Anthony Moreno of sexually assaulting an underage female while the Reverend was at the Bakersfield, CA Saint Philip the Apostle Parish, from 1979 to 1980. The female plaintiff filed the lawsuit using the California Child Victim Act. The father of the victim reportedly told Church officials about the abuse in 1980. However, Father Moreno remained in ministry and was relocated that year to the Fresno, CA Sacred Heart facility. Somewhere around 1979 and 1980, the Diocese of Fresno received two additional allegations concerning Moreno’s inappropriate sexual behavior. In 2008, Church officials received the third allegation. In 1981, the Roman Catholic Church placed Reverend Marino on leave. By February 1995, Moreno “stop serving as a priest.”
Current Status: Named in a civil lawsuit
O’Connell, Vincent A.
Ireland-native Father Vincent A. O’Connell worked in Nigeria before relocating in 1970 between assignments to the Catholic Diocese of Fresno as a visiting priest. Church officials assign him to Fresno, CA Saint Anthony’s at Padua Parish. In 2003, he was named in a civil lawsuit alleging he raped an underage female. After the 16-year-old’s father died suddenly, Reverend O’Connor spent time with the family before the rape occurred. Church documents reveal that Father O’Connell currently resides in Dublin, Ireland, at the Home for the Holy Ghosts Fathers. In 2012, the same victim filed a separate lawsuit against the San Francisco Archdiocese for their failure to do anything after she told Church officials what Reverend had done to her.
Current Status: Living in Dublin, Ireland
In 2002, Father Eric Swearingen’s name appeared in a filed civil lawsuit. Afterward, the Diocese of Fresno placed Reverend Swearingen on leave. The priest faced accusations that he sexually molested a teenage Bakersfield, CA Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish altar boy between 1989 and 1993. After an investigation, the Fresno Diocese found the allegations against Swearingen not credible. In November 2002, the local District Attorney’s Office did not press criminal charges because they could find no witnesses. This decision allowed Swearingen to return to active ministry. In December 2006, a California judge agreed to a mistrial in a civil lawsuit case because there was a split decision by the jury. Jurors ruled that the priest likely sexually assaulted the boy but that the Diocese of Fresno had no knowledge of what occurred to act to protect the victim. The basis of successfully resolving this case required that both claims made in the lawsuit were true. In May 2007, the case was transferred to binding arbitration with the decision by the arbitrator to remain secret. In December 2007, Church officials named Father Swearingen to be the high school rector of the diocese. As of March 2009, he remained active in serving parishioners at the Fresno, CA Holy Spirit Parish. In June 2014, he was named the Visalia, CA Catholic Church pastor. However, in June 2019, Church officials placed Reverend Swearingen on a leave of absence after more information arose from the 2009 civil lawsuit. Afterward, reports indicated that the Reverend was suffering with brain cancer, and he passed away at age 58.
Current Status: Died 2020
Sexual Abuse Victims Deserve Compensation
It is common for victims of clergy sexual assault to wait years or decades to pursue justice. In many cases, the sexual assault survivor lives in fear of retaliation by the predator priest who threatened or intimidated their victim into silence submission. Other times, officials in the Catholic Church hide the evidence from the public, congregation, and law enforcement to protect the priest at the cost of the sexual abuse survivor.
By the time many of these cases come to light, the District Attorney’s Office has no other option than to drop the charges due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Fortunately, California state legislators and the Governor enacted a new law that extends the statute to provide ample time for survivors who lost their opportunity to file a claim after the assault occurred.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, under the guidance of Pope Francis and the Vatican, has created an independent compensation program. This newly launched initiative helps provide financial compensation to sexual assault survivors who were harmed by priests that were in “active ministry,” on a leave of absence, visiting from another parish, or no longer associated with their religious order or the Church.
Indicators of Sexual Assault
The United States CDC ( Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) maintains statistics that revealed over 70% of males and 25% of females seventeen years old and younger had been sexually assaulted. More than nine out of ten of the sexual abuse victims knew their predator was when the rape, abuse, molestation, or sodomizing occurred. In the years afterward, the survivors often experienced significant challenges in building lasting relationships with family, friends, partners, spouses, and coworkers.
Some of the apparent indicators of sexual assault are not easy to see. Many times, the sexual predator threatens or intimidates the prey to ensure that the deviant action by the abuser remains hidden. The horrific tactics that can keep a victim silent can express itself in other ways that might include apparent physical signs like a sexually transmitted disease, unwanted pregnancy, or genital area trauma. The victim may have bruises, unexplained bleeding, or bloody sheets.
The sexually assaulted victim might display emotional or behavioral signs that include:
- A display of fear when left alone with a particular individual
- Inappropriate sexual behavior, especially in very young victims
- A sense of ongoing worry or excessive fear
- The avoidance of taking off clothing when changing or bathing
- A display of simulated sexual activity
- Talking excessively about sex
- Nightly bedwetting in teenagers, older children, and toddlers
- A sudden unexplained change in the victim’s eating habits including decreased appetite, difficulty in swallowing or refusing to eat
- Visual signs of insecurity or withdrawal
- Fear of the dark or waking up from nightmares
- Declaring that their body is dirty, immoral, or repulsive
Many of the emotional and behavioral scars left behind after a sexual abuse experience can last a lifetime. Typically, the victim will develop lifelong depression, ongoing anxiety, deep-seated post-traumatic stress disorders, or other unhealthy condition.
To protect young children, adults must ensure that they respect the minor’s boundaries and limit his or her access to anyone who engages in inappropriate behaviors, including touching. Listen to what the child wants to say. Believing what you are told is the best way to start a healthy and open dialogue about his or her feelings. Knowing what happened can ensure your child remains protected from this moment forward.
Hiring a Diocese Of Fresno Sexual Abuse Lawyer
The attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC have recovered more than $250 million in financial damages for our clients. As experienced trial attorneys, we have presented evidence in court and negotiated out-of-court settlement agreements with the responsible parties to ensure full monetary compensation. If you, or a loved one, is the victim of sexual molestation by a clergy member, it is essential to speak to us today. Our attorneys can help and ensure your rights are protected while we obtain financial compensation on your behalf.
We are ready to hear your story in a confidential setting. We accept all California clergy abuse cases through contingency fee agreements. This arrangement provides immediate representation without the need to pay for our services until after we have successfully resolved your case. We handle all clergy abuse cases, including priests who are actively “in ministry,” on a leave of absence, retired, deceased, visiting from another diocese, or defrocked (laicized) by Pope Francis in the Vatican.