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San Francisco Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyer

San-Francisco-Diocese-Clergy-Abuse-LawyersFor more than two decades, the United States Justice Department, the public, and law enforcement officers have scrutinized how the Roman Catholic Church has handled predatory priests. As of 2020, in California, over 700 Catholic priests, brothers, and sisters have faced credible allegations that they sexually assaulted a minor or young adult. Many of these cases of sexual assault occurred in parishes and parochial schools in Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Marion County, Napa County, San Francisco County, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, and Solano County.

The San Francisco district attorney, clergy members, Cardinal William Levada, California bishops, religious orders, and parishioners were involved in many of these cases. Some incidents occurred in the Diocese of San Jose, Diocese of Oakland, and Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Associated Press and Boston Globe released the names of priests accused of alleged abuse, rape, sodomy, child sex abuse, and molestation in the Bay Area. Some clergy members faced criminal charges under California law.

San Francisco Archdioceses Sexual Abuse Attorney

For years, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has provided legal assistance on behalf of our clients to ensure they receive justice against the Roman Catholic Church and the predatory priest. Our compassionate attorneys are here to listen to your story in a confidential setting to ensure your rights are protected. We can use the laws of the United States and the State of California to ensure that your case is resolved successfully.

In 2019, the California legislators enacted a new bill to extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse survivors. The new law helps sexual molestation victims harmed decades ago who have since lost their ability to seek compensation due to the expiration of the state’s statute of limitations. California Governor Garret Newsom signed the bill in October 2019. The new law will take effect on January 1, 2020.

$85 Million in Negotiated Settlements

In November 2018, the Archdiocese of San Francisco announced that the Church released over $87 million to settle sexual abuse claims where religious leaders harmed the victims. Many of these incidents occurred over the last fifteen years and involved hundreds of children and young adults in the community. The clergy sexual abuse survivors’ advocacy group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) revealed that the settlements are just a small fraction of the severe sexual molestation problem in San Francisco.

In October 2019, San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone told the St Stephen’s Catholic Parish congregation about the Church’s ongoing settlements. These negotiated agreements starting in 2003 have resolved 125 molestation cases. Many of these claims were filed after the California legislators lifted the state’s statute of limitations restrictions on adults who had been abused when they were minors.

List of Church Officials Accused of Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of San Francisco

Armstrong, Peter Gomez

Ordained: 1954

Documents reveal that between 1992 and 2002, an underage boy in Marion County accused former San Francisco 49ers, Chaplain Monsignor Armstrong of inappropriate sexual contact with him. At that time, the Monsignor had retired from ministry in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Current Status: Died 2009

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Aylward, James W.

Ordained: 1964

In 2000, Archdiocese of San Francisco Church officials resolved a civil lawsuit for $750,000 involving allegations that Father James W. Aylward sexually assaulted an underage minor in 1997. At that time, another religious leader saw the priest and the victim “wrestling” before notifying proper authorities. Even though the juvenile victim denied the incident occurred, the parents filed a lawsuit. In 1997, the San Francisco Archbishop was still supporting Reverend Aylward until he admitted during a deposition that he had inappropriately touched numerous underage victims for about twelve years. In 2000, the church placed Aylward on leave until his retirement in 2005.

Current Status: Retired from ministry 2005

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Baquedano-Pech, Theodore

In 1993, A thirty-year-old alleged female victim reported to the Archdiocese of San Francisco that Father Theodore Baquedano-Pech had sexually assaulted her over several years starting when she was eleven years old. She states that the San Francisco Diocese told her that the church is not responsible because the reverend was a visiting priest from Mexico at the time. Documents show that Reverend Baquedano-Pech continued in active ministry in Mexico in the years following the reported sexual allegations and served parishioners in Yucatan before Church officials removed his faculties in April 2010.

Current Status: Removed from ministry 2010

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Billante, Salvatore

In 1989, the California court system sentenced Brother Salvatore Billante to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of sexual abuse. However, the charges indicate that the Brother might have sexually assaulted as many as twenty-five underage males between 1969 and 1989. The California Corrections Department released Brother Billante after serving five of the eight years. The court required Billante to register as a sex offender. In 2002, the Brother was rearrested on another charge of abuse. However, the charges were dropped because of a California Supreme Court decision. Brother Billante’s name was found in a 2003 civil lawsuit.

Current Status: Registered sex offender

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Bravo, Roberto

Ordained: 1998

Antioch law enforcement received information involving Father Roberto Bravo concerning allegations of sexual abuse in 1999, including six underage female teenagers. However, the charges were dropped after the victims refused to testify. Church officials transferred Reverend Bravo to Utah, where the Church dealt with similar sexual inappropriate behavior problems with him there. In 2002, the Church then relocated Father Bravo to the Archdiocese of San Francisco and then to the Oakland Saint Albert’s Seminary, where other sexual abusers resided. In 2005, Bravo left the seminary after the Church restricted him from coming and going. However, Reverend Bravo’s name can still be found on the 2019 Oakland Diocese’s list.

Current Status: Accused of sexually inappropriate behavior

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Carter, Daniel E.

Ordained: 1979

In 2002, an alleged female victim filed a police report and accused Father Daniel E. Carter of sexual molestation during the 1970s, while she was a Notre Dame des Victoires Elementary School student. At that time, Reverend Carter was serving the Archdiocese as a religious Brother. The Archdiocese of San Francisco investigated the charges but found inconclusive evidence, which allowed the Reverend to remain in ministry. In 2002, the woman filed a civil lawsuit against Reverend Carter. At that time, Church officials placed the priest on leave. The San Francisco Archdiocese found the new charges inconclusive and, in April 2008, allowed the Reverend to return to active ministry.

Current Status: Still in active ministry 2011

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Cloutier, Edmond G.

Ordained: 1946

Father Edmond G. Cloutier attended seminary training with the Oakland Diocese’s former Bishop Cummins before being ordained in the Portland, ME Diocese. Reverend Cloutier’s name appears in several lawsuits involving allegations that the priest sexually assaulted four boys at the San Francisco Star of the Sea Parish during the late 1940s until 1957. Church documents reveal credible evidence that the priest had sexually assaulted victims during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1962, church officials incardinated (reassigned from one diocese to another) at the Diocese of Oakland at the time the new Diocese was created. Although the Church removed Reverend Cloutier from ministry in 1980, his name remains on the Diocese of Oakland’s list as of 2019.

Current Status: Died 2003

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Cunha, Arthur Manuel

Ordained: 1984

In August 1986, local law enforcement arrested Father Arthur Manuel Cunha as a part of an investigation where a restaurant waitress reported the suspicious behavior of a man involved with an eleven-year-old boy. The court system sentenced Reverend Cunha to sixty days in jail and ordered him to receive four months of treatment at a counseling center for abusing two boys. Numerous plaintiffs filed at least three separate civil lawsuits accusing the priest of sexually assaulting underage males in 1986. The Archdiocese of San Francisco settled one or compensation claims involving a sexually inappropriate incident with Arthur Cunha for $640,000. Father Cunha likely left the priesthood after his arrest and conviction.

Current Status: Arrested and convicted

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Dabbene, Bernard

Ordained: 1966

In November 2000, Church officials suspended Father Bernard Dabbene from ministry after he was found with a seventeen-year-old boy in a car. The justice system arrested, convicted, and sentenced Reverend Dabbene to community service and three years probation. Dabbene’s name appeared in a 2003 civil lawsuit that claims the Reverend was part of a child sex ring of abusers between 1969 and 1973 at Salesian High School. The document revealed allegations of abuse occurring at the Richmond Salesian Seminary were reported to the Province in 1959. In the years that followed, the Reverend became a school teacher and principal at Salesian high schools and was a San Francisco Archdiocese official. Victims reported their accusations of sexual assault involving Dabbene to the Oakland Diocese in 1971 that was formally a part of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. For years, Dabbene resided at the Salesian Provincial Headquarters.

Current Status: Died 2010

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Danielson, Harold

Ordained: 1966

A lawsuit filed by the victim revealed that Father Harold Danielson faced allegations of child sexual molestation. Reverend Danielson, who served as the Saints Peter and Paul Parish Pastor, denied all allegations. The Archdiocese of San Francisco Review Board likely investigated the claims in 2004 and deemed the charge as unsubstantiated as did the results of a Salesian’s findings. As of 2011, Father Harold Danielson remains in active ministry.

Current Status: Named in a civil lawsuit

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Durkin, Charles

Ordained: 1955

A report dated August 2003 revealed that Father Charles Durkin had retired in 2002 after learning that the District Attorney’s (DA) Office in San Francisco had requested Church records involving him. The DA was looking for information on allegations of abuse involving the priest. Reverend Durkin became the subject of a child molestation complaint involving incidents that occurred more than three decades ago. In 2002, the Catholic Church sent Father Durkin to Southdown to receive treatment.

Current Status: Died 2006

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Ellis, Hal

A lawsuit document filed on behalf of two mentally disabled men revealed that Brother Hal Ellis faced accusations of sexual misconduct with victims who resided at the Retirement Home – Sacred Hearts Jesuit Center. The document states that the Jesuit Brother sexually abused the men for years. The Archdiocese of San Francisco settled with the plaintiffs in September 2003 for $7.5 million. When the agreement was negotiated, Brother Ellis could not communicate due to an illness.

Current Status: Part of a lawsuit settlement

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Heaney, John P.

Ordained: 1953

In August 2002, Church officials placed Father John P. Heaney on leave while he was facing accusations of sexually assaulted two brothers during the 1960s. In 2003, when Reverend Haning was serving as a San Francisco Police Department’s senior chaplain, law enforcement charged the priest with sexual molestation of one victim listed above. During the same year, the District Attorney’s Office dropped the charges due to the unconstitutional status as deemed by a Supreme Court ruling.

Current Status: Died 2010

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Ingels, Gregory G.

Ordained: 1974

In 1996, Father Gregory G. Ingels was accused of engaging in oral sex with an underage male. Even so, the San Francisco Archbishop allowed the Reverend to remain active in public ministry for years. During that time, he served as a force on the Church’s legal matters and was excepted as an exceptional legal scholar and a former Victor who served the Archdiocese. After the accusation, the priest continued to serve as a church official even when a second charge arose by an alleged female victim. In 2002, the Church placed Father Ingels on leave. The following year, the District Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges that were dropped two months later due to the ruling by the United States Supreme Court. However, his cases were part of the June 2005 negotiated settlement with the Archdiocese of San Francisco and plaintiffs.

Current Status: Charged with indecent sexual contact with a minor

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Kavanaugh, John P.

Ordained: 1948

In November 2019, Father John P. Kavanaugh’s name appeared in a civil lawsuit filed by a fifty-three-year-old victim claiming that the Reverend had sexually assaulted him over three years. The victim states that the sexual molestation began when he was five years old when the priest was ministering at Saint Finn Bar. The victim states that he informed two Parish nuns and a teacher what the priest had been doing. However, there was no action taken. In 2004, the male victim reported Reverend Kavanaugh’s abusive behavior to the Archdiocese. However, church officials failed to report the abusive behavior to law enforcement and instead allowed Kavanaugh to remain in active ministry.

Current Status: Died 2013

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Keegan, Austin Peter

Ordained: 1962

Father Austin Peter Keegan was ordained in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and incardinated (transferred to another diocese) to the Santa Rosa Diocese between 1976 and 1981. However, complaints of sexual molestation of underage minors were first reported to the Archdiocese beginning in 1965. Some reports indicate that at least eighty minors might have been sexually abused by the priest in California. In 1982, the Archdiocese stripped Reverend Keegan of his duties. At that time, he relocated to Mexico and worked as an orphanage priest. In 1994, a filed civil lawsuit revealed accusations that Reverend Keegan had sexually assaulted an underage male at the Santa Rosa Diocese Saint Eugene Parish. In 1995, the Church settled with the victim for $450,000. In 2002, Father Keegan was living in Oceanside, California, when the grand jury indicted and charged him with molesting and sodomizing two boys between the ages of ten and fourteen. These incidents allegedly occurred during the late 1960s. Facing prison time, Father Keegan fled to Mexico, where he was arrested in March 2003. Law enforcement charged Reverend with seventy-five counts of sexual abuse involving three children in Sonoma County. However, that same year, the charges were dropped because of a recent Supreme Court ruling. The Reverend’s personnel file reveals that he also worked at the Las Cruces Mexico Diocese starting in 1991.

Current Status: Likely living in Mexico

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Keohane, Daniel T.

Ordained: 1978

In March 2011, Church officials placed Father Daniel T. Keohane on administrative leave after revealing an old allegation of inappropriate sexual activity that was part of a personnel file review. The Church document revealed that he had been accused of sexually molesting an underage female during the late 1970s while he was in-service at the Church of the Epiphany. The Catholic Church revealed that there was credible evidence to support the allegation but that further investigation was needed. The local District Attorney’s Office was informed. However, Reverend Keohane denied the accusations.

Current Status: Accused of inappropriate sexual behavior

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Leach, Jerome

Ordained: 1976

In 1993, Father Jerome Leach, then a deacon, faced allegations that he had sexually assaulted an altar boy in 1976. Church officials placed Reverend Leach on leave but failed to notify law enforcement until nearly a decade later in May 2002. That year, police arrested Father Leach, charging him with molesting a different altar boy in 1979. However, the local DAs office dropped all charges after a US Supreme Court ruling declared the state law was invalid. Additional allegations arose in the years that followed.

Current Status: Arrested and charged on sexually molesting an underage boy

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Lewis, Epiphanius

In 2019, the Diocese of San Francisco publicly exposed Father Epiphanius Lewis’s credible evidence supporting sexually assaulted innocent victims. The Archdiocese of San Francisco notes revealed that the sexual molestation of minors occurred between 1964 and 1968. Church officials became aware of Reverend Lewis’ inappropriate sexual conduct on numerous occasions, including in 1993, and each year from 2002 through 2005. Over the priest’s career, church officials assign him to St. Paul Shipwreck in San Francisco.

Current Status: Left the provence 1965

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McCrillis, Philip

Ordained: 1961

In 2004, two sisters filed a civil lawsuit accusing Father Philip McCrillis of sexually assaulting them when they were young girls in the 1960s while the priest was in a sexual relationship with their mother. During the time of the alleged abuse, Church officials had assigned Reverend McCrillis to the Palo Alto, CA Saint Albert the Great Parish. The two victims negotiated a low six-figure settlement with the Archdiocese of San Francisco because it ran the Parish at the time of the alleged incident. The Diocese of San Jose acknowledged that the accusations against Father McCrillis were credible. The Roman Catholic Church removed the priest from active ministry in 2004. He had retired a year earlier due to a medical condition.

Current Status: Died 2007

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Moriarty, John

In 2003, a civil lawsuit revealed accusations that Brother John Moriarty had sexually assaulted a seventeen-year-old male at the Saint Helen a Retreat House from 1975 to 1976. Brother Moriarty had been assigned at the retreat house between 1974 and 1978. In late 2004, a lawsuit was settled with the plaintiff for $1.2 million. As of January 2005, Brother John was at the Missouri Wounded Brothers Project Treatment Center. In May 2006, the San Francisco District of Christian Brothers reported that Moriarty was at Napa Mount La Salle, where he died in 2013. In November 2019, an adult male filed a civil lawsuit claiming that Brother Moriarty had sexually assaulted him during the 1970s when he was a Hayward, CA Moreau High School student. The victim says that both Brother Moriarty and the high school principal Reverend Gordon Wilcox sexually molested him.

Current Status: Named in a settled lawsuit

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Murnig, Anthony

Ordained: 1970

Father Guy Anthony Murnig’s name appeared in a civil lawsuit with accusations that he sexually assaulted a fifteen-year-old female starting from 1970 until 1974. The Archdiocese of San Francisco settled the suit in June 2005. In October 2010, law enforcement arrested Reverend Murnig. However, because of a Supreme Court ruling, all charges were dropped in July 2003. In 1978, Father Murnig left the priesthood to get married. Pope John Paul II laicized (defrocked) Murnig from the priesthood

Current Status: Laicized/Defrocked

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Myers, William S.

Ordained: 1988

In May 2011, the Archdiocese of San Francisco removed Father William S. Myers from his position at Menlo Park, CA Saint Raymond Parish. At that time, accusations arose involving the priest’s “boundary violations, with an underage boy. The seventeen-year-old victim accused Reverend Myers of following him into the dresser room at a store. In April 2011, local law enforcement received a complaint from the victim’s father. The following month, Church officials at the San Francisco Archdiocese learned of the charges involving inappropriate activity that did not involve physical contact. The Justice Department did not file criminal charges. During the 1990s, Father Myers sought out treatment to deal with his sexual identity issues. Currently, he is receiving sexual addiction treatment for adults.

Current Status: Accused of inappropriate sexual behavior

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O’Connor, John J.

Ordained: 1960

In August 2002, the Archdiocese of San Francisco placed Father John J. O’Connor on leave from active ministry. Reverend O’Connor told the parishioners at St. Mary’s Cathedral that he was taking a leave of absence due to personal health reasons. However, the Archdiocese had received reports alleging that the priest had inappropriate sexual conduct with an underage male that occurred more than three decades before. The 2005 Catholic Directory shows that he remained on leave until he passed away in March 2013.

Current Status: Died 2013

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O’Shea, Patrick J.

Ordained: 1958

In 1994, Father Patrick J. O’Shea faced criminal charges that he had sexually assaulted nine minors or more from the 1960s to the 1970s. In 1994, four alleged victims filed two separate lawsuits against Reverend O’Shea and the Archdiocese. In August 1995, the Church settled with two of the plaintiffs for $500,000. In June 1996, the Church paid out more than $2.5 million to settle cases involving fifteen men sexually assaulted by Reverend O’Shea and two other religious leaders. After O’Shea’s arrest, the priest remained in jail for two years awaiting trial. In 2003, all charges were dropped when a Supreme Court ruling changed the law. O’Shea also served jail time for stealing more than $200,000 from the San Francisco Archdiocese. The Vatican laicized (defrocked) Father O’Shea in 1994.

Current Status: Laicized/Defrocked

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Pacheco, Dan (Danilo)

Brother Dan (Danilo) Pacheco faced accusations that he sexually assaulted innocent victims while assigned at two different Southern California Catholic high schools. During Pacheco’s career, he was also assigned to the Diocese of Oakland, California.

Current Status: Died 2005

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Presenti, Richard P.

Ordained: 1968

In 2003, Father Richard P. Presenti admitted to sexually molesting an underage male in 1973. At the time of the incident, the fourteen-year-old boy told his parents and Church officials at the Archdiocese of San Francisco what occurred. However, The Church kept Reverend Presenti in active ministry. Presenti’s appeared in a lawsuit filed by three males who allege that the priest sexually molested them during their teen years. Still, the Church allowed Presenti to remain as the Archdiocese provincial treasurer until July 2005, where he served as a Director of the Order’s financial affairs. At that time, he was asked to step aside. In June 2007, Father Presenti’s name appeared in a second lawsuit. In January 2008, a California Appeals Court ruled that the Salesian Order was unaware that Reverend Presenti was at risk of sexual assault before he molested his victims. As of 2019, Presenti’s name appears on the Diocese of Oakland list.

Current Status: Named in civil lawsuits

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Ribeiro, Jose F.

Ordained: 1965

In 2018, the Jesuits West Province list publicly exposed Father Jose F. Ribeiro’s credible accusation of sexually assaulting a minor. Portugal-native Father Jose F. Ribeiro was assigned to the Diocese of Santa Clara between 1975 and 1981. From 1982 until 1991, he was assigned to the Diocese of Sacramento before his reassignment to the San Francisco Archdiocese until 1994. Church documents reveal what reports of Reverend Ribeiro sexually molesting a minor. However, there are no specifics as to place or time that the sexual assault occurred. Ribeiro’s Order dismissed him from the priesthood before he returned to Portugal.

Current Status: Returned to Portugal

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Riley, O’Brien

Ordained: 1963

Father Miles O’Brien Riley is a recognized actor and author and served as the Church’s spokesman on a radio ministry television, the God Squad. Reverend O’Brien Riley faced accusations by a female parishioner accusing the priest of consensual sexual activity almost to intercourse with the woman in the 1970s. The victim states that consensual sexual conduct started when she was sixteen years old. In August 2002, the case was referred to the local District Attorney’s Office. At that time, Church officials allowed Reverend O’Brien Riley to resign.

Current Status: Accused of sexual assault involving an underage female

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Schipper, Carl Anthony

Ordained: 1968

In March 2000, law enforcement arrested Father Carl Anthony Schipper, charging him withholding a series of explicit sexual conversations in an Internet chat room with an officer he believed to be a thirteen-year-old male. Church officials immediately placed Reverend Schipper on leave of absence from his position. At the time, he served as the Academic Dean at Saint Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park. In August 2000, the priest pled no contest and received a six-month jail sentence followed by three years of probation. The court ordered Father Schipper to register as a sex offender.

Current Status: Died 2003

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Smith, Lawrence Gerard

In January 1984, Father Lawrence Gerard Smith was convicted of sexual molestation and received an eight-month jail sentence. The Reverend’s victims were non-English-speaking Vietnamese boys. The incidents of sexual assault occurred in 1983. Church documents show there may have been six victims. In 1977, the law also convicted Reverend Smith of sexual misconduct involving a boy ten years of age.

Current Status: Convicted and sentenced to jail

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Stanislaus, Wellington Joseph

In 1965, Brother Wellington Joseph Stanislaus was accepted into the Jesuit Order. Six years later, in 1971, Church officials reassigned the Brother from the San Jose Diocese to the Diocese of Phoenix. His relocation to Phoenix came after he had faced accusations of sexually assaulting teenage males at a boy’s home. The Church allowed him to continue working with children in a Phoenix Diocese program while the Jesuit Order was working to have the Brother dismissed from active service. In 2003, law enforcement arrested Brother Stanislaus on charges that he sexually assaulted a sixteen-year-old male in 1969. At the time, the victim was living at a home for trouble boys in Los Gatos. In June 2003, with a change in the California Supreme Court ruling, the District Attorney’s Office dropped the charges. The December 2018 Jesuit West Province List had notes about Stanislaus that included allegations of sexual abuse involving a minor in incidents that occurred between 1968 and 1970. The Jesuit Order became aware of the allegations in 2002. During the Brother’s career, he was assigned to the San Diego, CA Juvenile Hall when the alleged abuse occurred. In 1972, the Jesuit Order dismissed the Brother from active service.

Current Status: Arrested and charged with sexual molestation

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Superiaso, Jose

Ordained: 1985

In 1989, Father Jose Superiaso arrived in America from the Philippines. In 1998, Reverend Superiaso left the Archdiocese of San Francisco on reassignment to the Santa Fe Archdiocese to work on a Native American reservation. In 2003, law enforcement arrested Father Superiaso charging him with sexually assaulting an underage female between 1994 and 1995. Father Superiaso admitted to having sexual intercourse with the young woman between twenty and thirty times. In 2004, his case ended in a mistrial. In 2005, Superiaso pled guilty to charges and received a ten-year prison sentence. In 2012, the priest was released from incarceration with a pending deportation to the Philippines.

Current Status: Convicted and imprisoned for sexual assault

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Trainor, Henry J.

Ordained: 1973

In the summer of 2002, Church officials placed Father Henry J. Trainor on leave, where he was serving as the Laguna Honda Hospital chaplain. The Church had previously placed Reverend Trainor on leave from the priesthood when allegations of sexual assault arose. In 2000, San Francisco Archdiocese Bishop Levada allowed him back into the ministry to serve parishioners until his suspension in 2002. At that time, prosecutors received information concerning the allegations. Some of the accusations of sexual misconduct were ten years old.

Current Status: Accused of inappropriate sexual activity

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Tubbs, Leo Donald

Ordained: 1966

Father Leo Donald Tubbs faced accusations that he inappropriately touched a non-genital area of an underage male over the victim’s clothing when the boy was between fourteen and seventeen years of age. The alleged sexual assault occurred in Oregon during the 1980s. In 2005, Reverend Tubbs faced other allegations of boundary violations involving adults. Church officials also charged the Reverend with disobedience issues that were not associated with sexual assault. A report indicates that Father Tubbs was not allowed to leave the Dominican residence without permission or alone. Documents reveal that the Reverend was not allowed to have any contact with minors or did not have permission to serve any congregation in active ministry. The Church says it became aware of the accusations in 2004 involving Tubbs’ sexual assault incidents that allegedly occurred in 1983. Father Tubbs’ name appears on the updated December 2018 Los Angeles Archdiocese list of predator priests with credible allegations of sexual assault.

Current Status: Accused of inappropriate sexual behavior

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Van Handel, Robert M.

Ordained: 1975

In addition to serving as the Saint Anthony Seminary High School principal, Father Robert M. Van Handel is also the founding Director of the Santa Barbara Boys’ Choir. Reverend Van Handel faced accusations that he might have sexually assaulted up to 150 underage males between eight and twelve years old. In 1994, Van Handel was charged with abusing his students. In August 1994, he received an eight-year prison sentence for abusing one of his victims. In 2002, the California Corrections Department released Reverend Van Handel from incarceration and ordered him to register as a sex offender. The priest’s name appeared in several civil lawsuits on allegations that he had sexually assaulted six victims between 1970 and 1982. In 2006, the Archdiocese of San Francisco settled for the claims. In May 2012, the San Francisco Archdiocese released Van Handel’s personnel file. The May 2019 Santa Barbara Province Franciscans’ list revealed allegations concerning Father Van Handel sexually assaulting minors between 1977 and 1984. Reverend Van Handel also appears on the 2019 Oakland Diocese list. The Church laicized (defrocked) Van Handel in 1997.

Current Status: Convicted and sentenced for child molestation

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Walsh, Milton T.

Ordained: 1978

In 1984, Father Milton T. Walsh faced accusations that he sexually assaulted a thirteen-year-old male. The incident was immediately reported to the San Francisco Archbishop Quinn. However, Cardinal Levada allowed the priest to remain in active ministry as a Menlo Park seminary teacher until August 2002. In October 2002, law enforcement criminally charged Reverend Walsh. One year later, in July 2003, all charges were dropped after a change in the ruling by the California Supreme Court involving the state’s statute of limitations. Local law enforcement secretly taped a phone call between the victim and Father Walsh, who apologized for his inappropriate sexual behavior. In 2003, the Archdiocese of San Francisco settled a civil lawsuit filed by his sexual abuse survivor. In September 2019, a local news outlet discovered Father Walsh participating in a celebration at the opening of the Benedictine Monastery at a Taos, New Mexico Parish. The Archbishop was officiating the ceremony. The report indicates that Walsh was planning to relocate into the monastery that is situated across the street from the local public elementary school.

Current Status: Named in a civil lawsuit

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Yost, Peter

Brother Peter Yost faced allegations of inappropriate physical contact involving a twelve-year-old boy in the early 1960s. The Church did not resolve the alleged victim’s case with a monetary settlement. A private investigator was unable to locate any other victims. In 2005, a clinical professor of psychiatry judged that Brother Yost could not be a danger to children due to his poor health, advancing age, and the inability to drive.

Current Status: Accused of sexual misconduct

New California Law Creates New Surge in Clergy Abuse Lawsuits

In 2019, California passed its Child Victims Act that took effect on January 1, 2020. The new law relaxes the statute of limitation restrictions for childhood sexual abuse survivors. Many of these victims were unable to file for compensation because evidence of the sexual assault arose decades after the abuse occurred. These sexual molestation victims are filing cases in all dioceses and archdioceses in California that includes:

  • Diocese of San Bernardino
  • Diocese of Orange
  • Diocese of Monterey
  • Diocese of Fresno
  • Diocese of San Diego
  • Diocese of San Jose
  • Diocese of Santa Rosa
  • Diocese of Oakland
  • Diocese of Sacramento
  • Diocese of Stockton
  • Archdiocese of San Francisco
  • Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Childhood sexual abuse survivors in California can now take advantage of the extension of the state’s statute of limitation laws. Eligibility for filing a civil lawsuit includes:

  • The sexual abuse survivor has not reached the age of forty,
  • The time limit is still within five years after damage from the abuse was discovered, or
  • The abuse survivor of any age is filing the claim within the “three-year open window” between January 1, 2020, and January 1, 2023, or they previously filed a claim before their twenty-sixth birthday.

California is the last of six states and Washington DC that have extended the window of opportunity for any sexual assault victim to file a civil lawsuit that was previously restricted. These states include Arizona, Hawaii, Vermont, Montana, North Carolina.

In recent years, the new wave of sexual assault cases that came to light rocked the Roman Catholic Church in America. Many of these cases involve Cardinals, Bishops, Pastors, Parish Priests, Religious Brothers, and Sisters. To settle thousands of cases, Church officials have chosen to sell off property and file claims against the Diocese’s liability insurance policies. Some of the funds are acquired by the Church through donations from the congregation and are not often funded by donors contributing to Catholic ministries, seminaries, and schools.

California Clergy Abuse Independent Compensation Program

Six California dioceses, not including the Archdiocese of San Francisco, are participating in the Independent Compensation Program. The new program launched in 2019 provides financial compensation to any eligible individual sexually molested by a priest at a Diocese or Archdiocese when the victim was a minor. The Church states that they are providing compensation no matter when the sexual assault allegedly occurred.

The Catholic Church is providing these funds to settle claims involving sexual abuse survivors instead of hearing the cases in court at trial. While these cases tend to be resolved quickly, the victim often receives a significantly lower amount than what a judge and jury might have awarded them.

It is still too early to tell the amount of compensation that every claimant is receiving through the California Archdiocese. In comparison, the more than 335 victims filing claims in the Archdiocese of New York have received, on average, about $200,000 each.

If you are eligible to receive compensation, time is of the essence. It is imperative to file a claim as soon as possible. Most of the dioceses and the archdiocese have previously filed for bankruptcy in recent years to avoid paying compensation that could require selling off more assets.

Hiring an Archdiocese of San Francisco Sexual Abuse Attorney

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has recovered over $250 million in financial compensation on behalf of our injured clients through settlements and jury trial verdicts. We use our years of experience to present evidence at trial and negotiate out-of-court settlements to ensure the defendants in the cases were held legally and financially accountable.

Were you victimized through sexual assault caused by a Cardinal, Bishop, Parish priest, clergy member, or another religious leader? If so, let our team of dedicated, compassionate attorneys help. Contact us today to discuss your legal options in a confidential setting. We handle all cases where the clergy member is in “active ministry,” on administrative leave of absence, has been removed from the priesthood, is retired, or has since died.

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Extremely professional law firm. I wouldn't hesitate to use them for myself or a family member in need of a quality lawyer. Marcia T.
★★★★★
I can't say enough positive things about Mr. Rosenfeld and his team. He did a great job and was always accessible and friendly. Tom M.
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