Did the Diocese of San Bernardino Deliberately Attempt to Minimize the Magnitude of Local Abuse?

Did the Diocese of San Bernardino Deliberately Attempt to Minimize the Magnitude of Local Abuse?

The Diocese of San Bernardino kept its promise on Monday and released the names of 34 priests accused of sexually abusing children. 

The disclosures were not the result of a spontaneous spiritual awakening and desire by the church to cleanse itself of a history of transgressions against children, but rather resulted from mounting pressures triggered by yet another explosive sexual abuse scandal, this time sparked by a grand jury report in Pennsylvania.

The allegations once again laid bare the church’s inexplicable cover-ups and ongoing complicity in concealing purported sex crimes against children. The church has proven itself to be a haven for pedophiles and other sexual miscreants. What I would describe as a “den of iniquity.” 

Again, and again, when accusations of abuse are revealed and the church’s elaborate and ongoing efforts to conceal wrongdoings exposed, its moral authority grows weaker and weaker.  It is not surprising Catholicism is declining.  Though I’m not usually one to quote scripture because I am writing about a religious order I’ll take the liberty this time. Proverbs 17:15 reads, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”

Of the 34 priests named as alleged sexual abusers by the Diocese of San Bernardino, fourteen are dead. Of the remaining 20 priests listed, only six were ever convicted for their purported crimes. 

The Diocese of San Bernardino consists of 92 parishes spread across Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Certainly, 34 potential sexual abusers in one religious community in forty years is alarming—it doesn’t matter what percent of total priests this represents—even one is one too many—yet, there is more to this story.

Before the Diocese of San Bernardino was established in 1978, parishes in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties were part of the Dioceses of San Diego. As a result, many priests who served these parishes prior to that date and were also alleged to have committed crimes of sexual abuse in the inland region were not included in the Diocese of San Bernardino’s list released on Monday. The question is why, because that information is readily available. 

In 2007, as part of its bankruptcy proceeding, the Diocese of San Diego published a list of priests who had been credibly accused of abusing minors dating back to 1950. The list was split into two parts—one listing priests from the San Diego and San Bernardino dioceses and another listing visiting priests from other dioceses and religious orders. 

Of the abusing priests listed from what is now the Dioceses of San Bernardino, I counted more than 25 names accounting for nearly 100 alleged incidents of abuse. Although most pre-date 1978, at least one name appears on the list published by the Dioceses of San Bernardino on Monday. 

In addition, among the credible abusers listed by San Diego as visiting priests from other dioceses and religious communities who served in the Diocese before 1978, I counted and additional three credible abusers in what is now the Dioceses of San Bernardino. 

In a taped YouTube statement on Monday, Bishop Gerald Barnes who leads the Diocese of San Bernardino, offered apologies and regrets while also admitting such an apology probably rang hollow. To me, it did—even more so because the Bishop failed to include the names of credible abusers identified in the area before 1978.

Instead, the San Bernardino Diocese deferred to the San Diego Diocese to reveal the names of credible abusers identified before 1978 even though the information has been available since 2007, and San Diego is only updating that list. 

The Bishop’s failure to include those names as part of his list somehow seemed disingenuous and left me wondering whether it was a purposeful attempt to obfuscate the historical magnitude of abuse in the San Bernardino Dioceses. Whether the abuses occurred during the time the Dioceses of San Bernardino was part of the San Diego Dioceses or since it’s been a stand-alone entity—they all occurred within its jurisdiction. After all, while a list of 34 alleged abusers is alarming, over a list of nearly 60 credible abusers is devastating.

For every alleged abuser listed, there were multiple victims/allegations, many spanned a number of years and occurred in several inland area municipalities.

My father’s family commitment to Catholicism traces back to the early 1800s. My mother converted to Catholicism in the 1940s and the couple was required by the church as a condition of their marriage to raise their children as Catholics. They were true to that promise. 

I now consider myself a recovering Catholic unable in good conscience to stomach the church’s continued failure to protect children in stark contrast to its brazen, systemic and shameful protection of pedophiles and other sexual abusers. However, my outrage doesn’t end there. 

Though this may or may not be the case in relation to alleged abusers in the Diocese of San Bernardino, around the country police officials and others—those sworn to serve and protect—in too many instances have also been complicit. 

Often, those in positions of municipal authority have turned a blind eye, failed to investigate, acquiesced to the power of church officials, and as a result, relegated abused children the status of nothing more than sexual fodder—robbed of their innocence, their spirits broken, lives shattered, trust betrayed, and their faith in the church, ruined.

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real. 

The 2007 list disclosed as part of the San Diego Diocese’s bankruptcy proceedings is available for review online at https://www.sdcatholic.org/portals/0/Images/includes/List-of-Priests-published-091418.pdf .

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