The Roman Catholic Church’s foundation is built on the spirituality of its religious leaders under the guidance of Pope Francis. As the world’s leading religious institution, the high standards of Catholicism provide parishioners an opportunity for second chances and forgiveness. Unfortunately, many religious priests use their power of authority against the congregation by sexually assaulting innocent children and vulnerable adults.
In recent decades, California Church diocese officials and religious orders faced a myriad of cases involving sexual molestation by Diocesan Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, Parish Pastors, Religious Brothers, and Sisters. Many of these cases have made the headlines and shocked parishioners worldwide. Statistics show that over the last seven years, about 4% of all Catholic Church clerics in America have faced credible accusations of sexual misconduct.
Researchers have yet to correlate a higher incident rate of religious leaders accused of sexual abuse of a minor compared to other groups of men in power. That said, church officials have often looked the other way or hid evidence from law enforcement and the public. The lack of the Church’s accountability and failure to take responsibility has given cover to predatory priests and religious brothers at the cost of the innocence of many vulnerable parishioners. Without protection from the Church, the victims are injured a second time if law enforcement never steps in to investigate the case.
Oakland Diocese Sexual Abuse Attorneys
Many predators put fear into their victims through intimidation or harassment to ensure their silence. Sexual abuse survivors are often embarrassed, are in fear of retaliation from their attacker, or believe they will be ostracized if they speak out and tell others what happened. When the Church allows priests facing sexual abuse of minors’ allegations to remain in active ministry, they empower the abuser to sexually assault others. Without criminal convictions, the Oakland Diocese religious brothers and deacons accused of the sexual abuse of a minor are never held legally accountable in court.
As victim advocates, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is committed to obtaining justice on behalf of sexual abuse survivors in the Catholic Diocese of Oakland. We use the law and our years of experience to ensure that the religious brothers and deacons accused of sexual abuse of minors are held civilly liable. If you were harmed by a priest or other religious leader in the Catholic Church, we can help. Allow us to listen to your story in a confidential setting. We can provide exceptional legal advice and protect your rights to seek compensation.
We accept cases throughout California, including in Alameda County, Contra Costa Counties, San Francisco County, Napa County, Marion County, Santa Clara County, Solano County, San Mateo County, and Sonoma County.
Clergy Sex Abuse an Ongoing Problem for the Diocese of Oakland
Many new cases involving clergy sex abuse hit the headlines in the last few years. However, accusations of alleged abuse are nothing new to the Oakland Diocese. In August 2005, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland settled numerous civil lawsuits to resolve cases involving fifty-six victims who were molested by clergy members. These suits were settled before Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland Diocese took control of its parishes in 2013.
The cases involving allegations of sexual abuse of minors were resolved after the plaintiff’s’ attorneys negotiated with Church officials for over four months. The agreed settlement resulted in individual settlements that ranged between $200,000 to over $2 million, based on the severity of the Reverend’s crime. The Catholic Diocese of Oakland is part of the northern California Roman Catholic Church that, in 2005, was named in over 150 lawsuits involving sexual molestation.
Two plaintiffs from Antioch, CA, were awarded nearly $2 million in financial damages paid by the Diocese of Oakland. Jurors in the case found that the predatory priest had sexually assaulted the two former altar boys in 1980.
A spokesperson from the victim advocates group, East Bay Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that the jury awards were the “bare minimum” needed to resolve these claims.
In June 2005, the Diocese of Sacramento resolved thirty-three claims of alleged abuse for over $35 million. The following month, the Archdiocese of San Francisco announced it would be settling twelve sexual abuse cases involving clergy members for $16 million.
List of Clergymen Accused of Sexual Molestation in the Catholic Diocese of Oakland
Acebo, Jeffrey N.
In 1986, Father Jeffrey N. Acebo confessed to the Oakland Diocese Bishop that he had sexually assaulted an underage girl. At that time, Reverend Acebo’s desired to make his relationship with the minor female public. However, Church Officials refused before sending the priest for treatment and reassigning him to a different parish. Over the next fifteen years, Reverend Acebo ministered to parishioners at four Catholic parishes. The 2019 Oakland Diocese’s list noted the priest had been removed from ministry in April 2002 over sexual abuse allegations of incidents that occurred between 1986 and 1988. The Church demanded the Reverend live a life of prayer and penance.
Current Status: Removed from ministry
Binh-Minh, Thomas Duong
The Diocese of Oakland publicly exposed Father Thomas Duong Binh-Minh’s credible accusation of sexually assaulting innocent victims. The 2018 Oakland Diocese list revealed Binh-Minh’s name along with other religious leaders accused of sexually abusing children and adults. Church documents reveal that the sexual abuse likely occurred in 1987. Church officials removed the priest from active ministry in April 2002.
Current Status: Returned to ministry 2002
Breen, Vincent Ignatius
In 1982, church officials forced the then seventy-year-old Father Vincent Ignatius Breen into retirement to receive treatment and leave the Diocese of Oakland. Church officials hoped that their actions to relocate the priest would help him avoid being prosecuted for fondling eight underage females in many incidents that occurred over eighteen months. Some documents reveal that Reverend Breen might have over 100 or more sexual abuse victims starting in the 1950s until the 1980s. One female victim came forward in 1967 with accusations involving Reverend Breen and told her high school principal, a nun, who likely spoke to the Catholic Diocese of Oakland concerning the allegations of abuse. In 1982, the Diocese’s Vicar General said that he had initially heard about the “rumors” involving Monsignor Vincent Breen years before. Breen’s name appears in civil lawsuits filed in the early 2000s, November 2010, and October 2019. One incident claims that sexual abuse involving the Monsignor occurred between 1980 and 1981.
Current Status: Died 12/1986
Broderson, Donald Eugene
In April 2003, a civil lawsuit revealed allegations against Father Donald Eugene Broderson. The document states that the priest sexually assaulted an altar boy on numerous occasions during the 1970s. In 1991, Church officials forced Reverend Broderson into retirement and later allowed him to retire officially. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland was aware of the complaints filed against the priest as far back as 1991. Broderson became a licensed hypnotist and marriage family therapist with the practice in Richmond, CA. In 2003, Church officials settled lawsuits involving the Reverend after admitting he sexually molested innocent victims. The Vatican laicized (defrocked) Father Donald Broderson in March 2005. By 2007, six brothers filed a lawsuit claiming sexual abuse by the priest. Even though the case was dismissed, the Appeals Court reinstated the case in 2009 until it was dismissed again in 2012 by the California Supreme Court.
Current Status: Laicized 2005
Cabral, Kenneth J.
The Diocese of Oakland publicly exposed Father Kenneth J. Cabral’s credible accusation of sexually assaulting innocent victims. The sexual assault survivors allege that Father Kenneth J. Cabral had molested them between 1964 and 1965, while at the Martinez Saint Catherine of Siena Parish. In 1987, the Reverend was listed as “absent on sick leave.” Church officials removed Reverend Cabral from ministry in 1991. The priest’s name appeared publicly in the 2004 Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland’s apology services eight years after he passed away.
Current Status: Died 3/1996
Castillo, Alexander Q.
In 2008, Father Alexander Q. Castillo arrived in the US from Costa Rica. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland assigned Reverend Alexander Castille to Fremont and Oakley parishes. The priest also served as the Escuela de Ministerios Pastorales Academic Dean and a Junipero Serra Catechetical Institute teacher. The Reverend held positions as the Episcopal Master of Ceremonies and Department of Faith Formation Director. In January 2019, Church officials informed the Reverend that he was being placed on leave while conducting an investigation involving allegations that he had sexually molested an underage child. The following day, the church issued a press release publicly announcing the priest’s leave from the ministry before notifying law enforcement of the allegations a few hours later. Father Alexander Castillo fled the United States. Within three weeks, the Catholic Diocese of Oakland filed a missing person’s report.
Current Status: Fled the country
Clark, James A.
In 1963, local law enforcement arrested Father James A. Clark for “oral copulation” with a young adult male in Santa Cruz. Reverend Clark was convicted of the felony charge and given probation. Two years later, Church officials reassigned the priest to the Fremont, CA Corpus Christi Church. At that Parish, he had allegedly sexually assaulted “numerous” underage minors. In 2003, two siblings filed a lawsuit alleging Clark had sexually molested the boys between 1968 and 1972. A different victim came forward and filed a separate lawsuit. In 2005, Reverend Clark’s name was included in the Diocese of Oakland $56.4 million payout that resolved cases of fifty-six sexual abuse survivors who had been victimized by priests during their childhood. The priest retired in 1984 and died five years later.
Current Status: Died 1989
In 2019, the Diocese of Oakland publicly exposed Father Phillip Colloty’s credible accusation of sexually assaulting innocent victims. Church documents dated 2010 reveal that Reverend Phillip Colloty sexually molested an underage child in 1955. The priest’s name appears on the 2019 Diocese of Oakland list.
Current Status: Died 1976
The Diocese of Oakland publicly exposed Father Hilary Cooper’s credible accusation of sexually assaulting innocent victims. In 1976, Father Hilary Cooper was incardinated (reassigned from one diocese to another) into the Diocese of Oakland. Church documents reveal incidents of the Reverend’s sexually inappropriate behavior that happened in 1978. In 1995, Church Officials removed Reverend Cooper from ministry and ordered him to live a “life of prayer and penance.”
Current Status: Removed from ministry 1995
In 2019, the Diocese of Oakland publicly exposed Father Virendra Coutts’s credible accusation of sexually assaulting innocent victims. Reverend Coutts might possibly be a Deacon and not a priest.
Current Status: Accused
Crespin, George E.
In 2005, Father George E. Crespin faced accusations documented in a lawsuit that he had sexually assaulted an underage male in 1975. During the time of the assault, Reverend Crespin was the Union City Our Lady of the Rosary Parish pastor. A few years later between 1979 and 1994, the priest worked as a Vicar General or Chancellor. Father George E. Crespin denied the allegations. The Church investigated the claim and the Diocesan Review Board found “insufficient evidence” to credibly validate the accusations. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland agreed to a negotiated out-of-court settlement for $600,000 in August 2005. Church officials admitted they had not reported the allegations of abuse to proper authorities. That same year, the church restored the retired priest’s privileges. In December 2019, two male plaintiffs filed a lawsuit under the California Child Victims Act, claiming the church had covered up sexual abuse incidents by Frs. Crespin and Stephen Kiesle during the 1970s at Our Lady of the Rosary. One plaintiff stated that Crespin had started sexually molesting him when he was an eleven-year-old boy. The victim said that Reverend Crespin had also sexually assaulted the boy’s best friend who had recently committed suicide.
Current Status: Named in a civil lawsuit
Custodio, Sidney J.
Father Sidney J. Custodio is believed to be currently residing in Menlo Park. Reverend Custodio’s name appeared in a civil lawsuit involving allegations that he sexually assaulted an underage girl between 1960 and 1963 while he was assigned to the San Mateo St Gregory Parish.
Current Status: Named in a lawsuit
Donovan, Pearse P.
In 2003, a civil lawsuit document revealed accusations that Father Pearse P. Donovan had sexually molested an underage male starting in 1978 when the priest was at Saint Clement Parish. The report states that Reverend Donovan passed the victim on to Lawrence O’Brien, an abusive Brother working at Holy Cross. At the time of the sexual abuse, the Reverend was receiving treatment for alcoholism. Between 1963 and 1972, he held the Superintendent of Schools position. The church removed Reverend Donovan from the ministry before he retired in 1983. Church notes showed evidence of the priest’s inappropriate sexual behavior occurring between 1978 and 1980.
Current Status: Died 1986
Eagleson, Donald W.
In 1985, Reverend Donald W. Eagleson was ordained in the Santa Rosa Diocese In 2002, Father Eagleson was accused of sexual assault in an incident that occurred in 1971. At that time of the molestation, he was a teacher and Holy Cross brother at the Hayward, CA, Moreau High School. Later in 2002, Church officials suspended him after new allegations arose concerning the 1970 sexually abusive incident that was not revealed to the public or parishioners for four more years (2006). Reverend Eagleson’s victims became part of the 2004 civil lawsuit that was resolved through a negotiated settlement in 2005.
Current Status: Died 2004
Ferreira, Joseph A.
In November 2006, a filed lawsuit revealed allegations made by a female victim that Father Joseph A. Ferreira had sexually assaulted her between 1973 and 1974 during her teen years while the Reverend was at the San Leandro, CA, Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish. The victim also claimed that the priest continued to stalk and harass her for years. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland settled her case out of court. Another female victim stepped forward with accusations in June 2009 and filed a lawsuit. Her allegations accused Reverend Ferreira of sexually assaulted her at the same parish as the first victim between 1970 and 1972. Church documents note that officials removed the Reverend from his ministry in 1998.
Current Status: Died 2014
In 2019, the Diocese of Oakland publicly exposed Father Patrick Finnegan’s credible accusation of sexually assaulting innocent victims. Catholic documents noted the involvement of Reverend Finnegan sexually abusing others starting in the 1960s through 1973. In 1973, Church officials removed Father Patrick Finnigan from ministry.
Current Status: Removed from ministry
Francis, George J.
In the early 1990s, Father George J. Francis faced accusations of raping a seven-year-old female in 1959. The Catholic Church settled a lawsuit filed by the victim in 1993. The Catholic Church denied that Reverend Francis was guilty of any wrongdoing. In November 2002, a second female victim filed a civil lawsuit alleging that the priest had sexually assaulted her between 1979 and 1982 when she was between five years and eleven years old. In 2002, both victims publicized their accusations. Church officials settled the second case for $3 million in January 2004. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland admitted there was credible evidence that Father Francis had sexually assaulted at least nine victims from the 1960s through 1992. In 1986, the church removed the Reverend from ministry and allowed him to retire.
Current Status: Died 1998
Freitas, Robert E.
In 1985, church officials restricted Father Robert E. Freitas’ ministry after allegations arose that he had sexually assaulted two boys. The church sent the Reverend to treatment. In 2002, an adult male spoke with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, saying that Reverend Father Freitas had sexually assaulted him in 1979. Law enforcement was notified. During a meeting with the priest that led to his arrest, the victim wore a wire. During the meeting, the Reverend admitted he had sexually assaulted the victim. The case investigators believe that at least four other victims are involved in sexual molestation incidents that occurred during the same time. In December 2002, Father Freitas pled guilty and received a six-month jail sentence followed by five years of probation. In June 2003, a US Supreme Court ruling resulted in the release of the priest from jail. The Roman Catholic Church laicized (defrocked) the priest in 2007.
Current Status: Died 2011
In 2019, the Diocese of Oakland publicly exposed Brother Adrian Furman’s credible accusation of sexually assaulting innocent victims. in 2002 and 2010, victims reported allegations that the religious leader had sexually molested underage minors between 1959 and 1965.
Current Status: Died 2003
Green, William S.
In April 1999, law enforcement arrested six individuals, including Father William S Green, for sending sexually explicit pornography and messages to an underage male child through an Internet chat room. In July 1999, Reverend Green pled guilty to multiple charges of oral copulation and a single charge of “attempting to send harmful material to a minor.” The court sentenced the priest to two years in prison.
Current Status: Sentenced to two years in prison
Gutierrez-Cervantes, Joseph (Jesse)
In 1985, Brother Joseph (Jesse) Gutierrez-Cervantes left his Order one year before his dismissal in 1986 as a counselor at the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center. In 2003, a civil lawsuit named Brother Gutierrez-Cervantes of sexually assaulting an underage De la Salle High School male student. In 2004, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland negotiated a $4 million settlement with the plaintiff (victim). During the 2000s, the priest was working in Sonoma as a consultant under the name of Jesse Gutierrez-Cervantes. New allegations of sexual misconduct arose in 2019, claiming that Reverend Gutierrez-Cervantes had sexually assaulted others in 1986. In October 2019, another lawsuit was filed by a second former De la Salle High School student claiming that Gutierrez-Cervantes had drugged and abused him numerous times between 1968 and 1972.
Current Status: Settled in a civil lawsuit
Kiesle, Stephen M.
Church documents reveal that Father Stephen M. Kiesle has an extensive history of sexually molesting girls and boys. In 1978, the justice system convicted Reverend Kiesle of sexual assault involving two underage males. He received three years of probation. In 1981, Kiesle left the priesthood and volunteered as a Pinole St. Joseph’s Parish youth minister. In 2002, law enforcement arrested the priest and charged him with thirteen counts of child molestation. The following year, the Justice Department dropped all but two charges due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. In 2004, he was convicted and received a six-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting an underage female in 1995. Some records indicate that he might have sexually molested as many as ten girls. Reverend Kiesle responded to the accusations that if the underage girls stated that the abuse occurred, then he was sure it occurred. In 2009, the California Corrections Department released the Reverend. The Judge required that the Reverend register as a sex offender. Afterward, victims filed civil lawsuits. He is likely currently residing in Walnut Creek, California. In August 2010, seven accusers filed two civil lawsuits. In October 2018, a lawsuit was filed against the Vatican involving Kiesle in cases of sexual assault of an underage female when she was between eleven and thirteen between 1972 and 1974. A December 2019 lawsuit claims that a boy was sexually abused when he was between ten and eleven years old during the 1970s. A March 2020 lawsuit claims the priest sexually assaulted a five-year-old boy in 1985 for over a year in Pinole.
Current Status: Laicized 1987
LaGasse, Ronald J.
In 1984, law enforcement arrested Father Ronald J. LaGasse on suspicion that he sexually assaulted a seventeen-year-old male at Dublin, CA Saint Raymond Parish. Church officials placed Reverend LaGasse on leave for a year before reassigning him. Years later, he became an Army Reserve chaplain before his ex-communication in June 2008. He was last known to be living at a Hawaiian Benedictine monastery as an abbot.
Current Status: Likely living in a monastery in Hawaii
Lanuevo, Tarcisio D.
In December 1979, the parents of two victims, ages two years and seven years old, reported to local law enforcement that Father Tarcisio D. Lanuevo sexually abused the girls at San Lorenzo, CA St. John the Baptist Parish. In 1993, both female victims filed a civil lawsuit against Reverend Lanuevo, claiming that the church’s pastor (Lanuevo) made promises to the family that he would undergo treatment and never be around minors even if the justice system dropped all criminal charges against him. The church eventually settled with the girls but allowed Lanuevo to remain an active ministry in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland until 1991. In 1992, Church officials removed Lanuevo from active ministry. In 1993, he was assigned to work at the Portland, Oregon VA domiciliary.
Current Status: Accused of inappropriate sexual contact with minors
Leehan, Cornelius P.
In December 2003, lawsuit documents revealed that allegation that Father Cornelius P. Leehan had raped a five-year-old boy while the priest was at the San Leandro, CA Saint Alphonsus Liguori Parish. Reverend Lehan also goes by Cornelius Patrick or Padraig. The priest was also accused of fondling an underage male seven years later after the church reassigned Lehan to the parish. Lehan was the victim’s father’s friend. When the victim stated that he told his father what Reverend Lehan had done, he was told to never speak of it again and never talk about a priest in that way.
Current Status: Died 1996
Luiz, Gary M.
Likely in 2003, Father Gary M. Luiz faced accusations documented in a civil lawsuit that he sexually molested an underage male between 1980 and 1986 at Newark, NJ Saint Edward’s Parish. The lawsuit reveals that the victim’s parents complained in 1984 to the pastor at Saint Edward’s Church. However, Diocesan officials said that they were unaware of the Reverend’s inappropriate sexual activity until about 1990. The Church says that, upon learning of the allegations, they immediately placed the priest on leave. Since 1993, the Reverend held a Canon Law Degree acquired from the Washington DC Catholic University. In 1995, Father Luiz was incardinated (transferred to another diocese) to a monastery in Berkeley, California. The Roman Catholic Church had assigned Luiz to work at Alameda, CA Saint Barnabas Parish. According to the 2017 Official Catholic Directory, Father Gary Luiz works as a canon attorney for the Reno, Nevada Dioceses.
Current Status: Accused of inappropriate sexual contact with a minor
The Diocese of Oakland publicly exposed Father Bede McKinnon’s credible accusation of sexually assaulting innocent victims. The Santa Barbara Province Franciscan’s list noted allegations of inappropriate sexual activity reported in 2010 involving Brother McKinnon. The incident allegedly involved an underage child that occurred between 1978 and 1979. At the time of the alleged assault, McKinnon was assigned at the Oakland, CA Saint Elizabeth’s Parish.
Current Status: Died 1988
Ordained: Before 1970
In 2019, the Diocese of Oakland publicly exposed Father Daniel McLeod’s credible accusation of sexually assaulting innocent victims. Reverend McLeod was incardinated (assigned to a diocese) to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland in April 1970. Church records indicate that the abuse likely occurred in 1969. In 1987, Church officials removed McCloy from the ministry. He also retired from the priesthood that year.
Current Status: Died 2001
Mendoza Vela, Hector David
In 2008, El Salvador-native Father Hector David Mendoza Vela came to America. In March 2019, law enforcement arrested Reverend Mendoza Vela while he was serving parishioners at the Fremont, CA Corpus Christi Parish as its pastor. The priest was charged with sexually assaulting an underage male for over 1.5 years between 2016 in 2017 when the boy was fourteen and fifteen years old. In July 2019, the priest pled guilty to thirty criminal counts. The following month, he pled no contest to five counts after accepting a plea agreement. At the end of September 2019, Father Mendoza Bella received an eight-year prison sentence. The Catholic Church initiated the canonical process.
Current Status: Serving an eight-year prison sentence
In 2019, the Santa Barbara province Franciscans publicly exposed Father Joaquin Moreno’s credible accusation of sexually assaulting a minor. A 1996 Church note revealed allegations involving Moreno sexually molesting an underage child. In 2008, Father Moreno left his religious order.
Current Status: Accused of inappropriate sexual contact
In 2003, a civil lawsuit revealed allegations against Brother Lawrence O’Brien, accusing him of inappropriate sexual conduct that occurred during the 1970s and the 1980s. The accusation involved at least one child at Moreau High School in Hayward, California.
Current Status: Named in a civil lawsuit
In 2019, the Diocese of Oakland publicly exposed Father William Odom-Green’s credible accusation of sexually assaulting innocent victims. The Catholic Church removed Father William Odom-Green’s faculties after his conviction for sexually assaulting innocent victims in the Oakland Diocese. The Reverend was convicted and sent to prison. After Odom-Green’s ordination into the priesthood, he was incardinated (assigned to a diocese) to the Owensboro Diocese in Kentucky. Between December 1997 and April 1999, he was assigned to the Diocese of Oakland.
Current Status: Convicted and sent to prison
Ponciroli, Robert F.
In February 1995, Church officials removed Father Robert F. Ponciroli from active ministry and sent him to receive therapy after an allegation of inappropriate sexual conduct arose. In August 2002, Reverend Ponciroli’s name appeared in a filed civil lawsuit alleging he had sexually abused an eleven-year-old boy in Antioch California in 1975. In February 2003, law enforcement arrested Father Ponciroli on accusations of sexual abuse. Four months later, in June 2003, the District Attorney’s Office dropped the charges. In April 2005, the jury awarded the plaintiff $2 million to resolve the suit. The victim’s attorney states that there are likely seven other known victims. The Reverend admitted that he was addicted to sex. Church officials laicized (defrocked) Ponciroli in 2005.
Current Status: Died 2009
Prindeville, James E.
In 2003, a filed civil lawsuit revealed allegations that Father James E. Prindeville had sexually assaulted a sixteen-year-old female between 1952 and 1953 at Bishop O’Dowd High School. Reverend Prindeville denied the accusations. Documents show that the Reverend left the priesthood to get married sometime after 1961 but continued to associate with the Catholic Church. The priest would assist former clergymen in preparing their resumes to find work.
Current Status: Died 2004
Ribeiro, Arthur A. (Arturo)
In 1982, Church officials placed Father Arthur A. (Arturo) Ribeiro on sick leave. Ten years later, the Church removed Reverend Ribeiro from the ministry and allowed him to retire from the priesthood. In 1996, two priests confronted Ribeiro about his inappropriate sexual activity. Three adult men filed a civil lawsuit in January 2003 accusing Father Ribeiro of sexually molesting them at the Concord, CA All Saints Parish, in the 1960s. A 2004 article revealed four plaintiffs were participating in two civil lawsuits involving Reverend Ribeiro. One of the accusers said he identified Ribeiro as an abuser when the victim was confessing to the Parish Pastor in the two weeks after the abuse occurred. Church officials responded by transferring and promoting Ribeiro.
Current Status: Died 2000
Father Anthony Slane’s name appears in a civil lawsuit involving sexual abuse that occurred in the San Leandro, CA Saint Alphonsus Liguori Parish. Reverend Slane worked for the Archdiocese of Seattle, including at the Hoquiam, Our Lady of Good Help Parish, between 1981 and 1988. From 1980 until 2002, Slane also worked at the Seattle, WA Sacred Heart Parish. Father Slane’s name appears on the 2019 Diocese of Oakland list and the 2016 Seattle Archdiocese list.
Current Status: Died 2010
Tollner, Gary B.
In 1982, Father Gary B. Tollner faced accusations that he sexually assaulted his twenty-two-year-old special needs nephew, who had a developmental, mental age of a twelve-year-old. Church officials were aware that parishioners had spoken of Reverend Tollner’s “suspicious behavior” with underage males, drugs, and alcohol. Tollner had installed a hot tub on the roof of the church rectory used for his activities with boys. One of his alleged victims, who later committed suicide and talked about Tollner’s sexual abuse in his suicide note, became an addict at twelve years old. In 1995, the Church removed Father Tollner. In February 2004, Oakland Diocese Bishop Vigneron made a public apology to the Alameda, CA Saint Philip’s Neri congregation concerning Tollner. The February 2018 Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland list had notations that sexual abuse involving Father Tollner allegedly occurred from the 1960s through the 1980s.
Current Status: Accused of sexual misconduct
In 2019, the Santa Barbara Province Franciscans’ list publicly exposed Father Ramon Varela’s credible accusation of sexually assaulting innocent victims. Church officials became aware in 1994 of allegations made against Father Ramon Varela sexually abusing underage children between 1949 and 1979. The Roman Catholic Church first assigned Reverend Varela in Arizona in 1949. The priest’s name appears on the 2019 Diocese of Oakland List.
Current Status: Accused of sexual misconduct
In February 2008, an adult female accused Brother John Vas of sexually molesting her in the 1960s when she was seven to fourteen years old. At that time, Vas was a Salesian Order Brother and worked as the Salesian High School band instructor. The victim’s brother was a student at the school. Currently, Brother John Vas is believed to be married and living in Florida.
Current Status: Accused of sexual misconduct involving a minor
In May 2005, an adult male filed a civil lawsuit alleging that Brother Francis Verngren had sexually assaulted him between 1966 and 1970. During that time, Brother Verngren was a Berkeley, CA Catholic school principal and head of the resident dorm. The victim stated that in 1969, he told another staff member what the Brother had done. The Church responded by temporally removing Brother Verngren but allowed him to return to his position afterward. In September 2003, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland settled the case. Brother Francis Verngren’s name also appears on the January 2019 Diocese of Santa Rosa list, where he was assigned between 1969 and 1984 at Mount LaSalle, and in 1984 he worked at Justin Siena. Between 1990 and 2002, he served his congregation as a Saint Apollinaris math tutor. Verngren’s name also appears on the 2019 Diocese of Oakland list.
Current Status: Named in a civil lawsuit
Whelan, Stephen (Steve)
In 1997, Father Stephen (Steve) Whelan served the Catholic Church as the Salesian Bulletin editor. In 2003, a male alleged victim filed a civil lawsuit accusing Reverend Steve Whelan of sexual molestation, including rape, from 1969 into the early 1970s. At the time of the alleged rape, the victim was a Salesian High School student. The alleged sexual abuse survivor stated that Brother Sal Billante was a witness to the sexual assault but never said anything. After the victim discussed what happened with a school counselor, he was chastised and received threats from the school principal. The victim also states that Reverend David Purdy, the school administrator, tried to get the victim to commit suicide. As of August 2005, Reverend Whelan remained active in ministry. In July 2006, the victim settled with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland in a $600,000 negotiated agreement. Church officials finally removed Father Steve Whelan from his position after a jury verdict in a trial. The Reverend then relocated into the Provincial House. In August 2008, the California Court of Appeals upheld the jury’s verdict. The priest was then removed from active ministry. Reverend Stephen Whelan’s name appears on the 2019 Diocese of Oakland list.
Current Status: Named in a settled civil lawsuit
In 2004, Father Gordon Wilcox’s name appeared in a civil suit against Reverend Donald Eagleson. In 2005, the case was partially settled by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland. In 1971, Reverend Wilcox faced allegations that he sexually molested a male Hayward, CA Moreau High School student. The 2019 Oakland Diocese’s List revealed multiple accusations in 2003 and 2012 in California of Father Wilcox sexually assaulting victims during the 1970s. In November 2019, a male alleged victim filed a civil lawsuit accusing Reverend Wilcox of sexual molestation that occurred during the 1970s when the victim was a Moreau Catholic High School Student. That victim states that he was also sexually assaulted by Reverend John Moriarty. Father Gordon Wilcox’s name appears on the January 2019 Congregation of Holy Cross list.
Current Status: Died 1984
Father Terrance Wong was accused of sexual molestation.
Current Status: Accused
A Long History of Clergy Sexual Abusers
For hundreds of years, religious leaders in the Roman Catholic Church have been accused of sexually assaulting vulnerable adults and innocent children. However, it was not until the early 1940s that the first cases became public after a New Mexico Retreat opened the doors of its Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete to provide treatment for diocesan priests facing accusations of the alleged abuse. Many Bishops around the nation sent their priests, religious brothers, and deacons to the Retreat to get help for their sexual misconduct behavior and addiction to alcohol.
Before the opening of the Retreat, many cases involving sexual misconduct by clergy members were handled at the local level. The Diocese Bishop rarely removed the sexual assaulter from the ministry or would place him on leave for a short time or reassigned him to a different parish. It was rare if the Bishop or the local parish priest informed the congregation what had happened between the victim and a priest who was in service to their spiritual care.
The lack of transparency by the Roman Catholic Church went on for decades. The actions of Church officials often gave power to the predator to continue abusing unsuspecting victims to repeat his offenses with their victim or search for new prey. The silence of the victims and the Church cover-up allowed the sexual assault to continue without notice.
An Emotional and Physical Toll
The experience of surviving sexual abuse places a heavy burden on the victims that can last a lifetime without counseling. To make things worse, the child sex abuse survivor will often remain silent in fear of retaliation from the abuser and never tells anyone what occurred when they were vulnerable young people.
Many sexual abuse predators choose their prey by their naïveté, innocence, or age. The abuser uses the victim’s vulnerability against them to take advantage of the situation. Even after undergoing years of therapy, many sexual assault survivors develop challenging medical conditions, including deep depression, high anxiety, thoughts of suicide, post-traumatic disorders, and difficulty in maintaining quality relationships with family, friends, lovers, and spouses.
In time, many sexual abuse survivors can step out of their silence, point out their molester, and hold him accountable to protect others from harm. With legal representation, the victim never has to face the Church or their abuser alone.
Oakland Dioceses Sexual Abuse Attorneys Are Here to Help the
Under the guidance of Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States covered up hundreds of cases of sexual assault for years. Fortunately, sexual assault survivors who were harmed in California Roman Catholic dioceses have many legal options to pursue justice. Our law firm has used California law to hold predatory priests of the Oakland Diocese accountable through filed civil lawsuits and can help you too.
The recent changes made by the California Legislature and Governor provides a workaround for the state’s statute of limitations. Now, sexually abuse survivors victimized decades ago can still file a civil lawsuit and seek financial compensation to recover their damages. We accept all cases where the predator is still in “active ministry,” remains on administrative leave, has been removed from the priesthood, is now in retirement, or has died.