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S.J. Bishop Reveals More Cases

Apr 25, 2002 | Mercury News The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose now says he knows of six current or former priests who have faced accusations of sexual misconduct. One month ago he disclosed only two of the cases, both of which involved priests who had been criminally charged.

Among the cases acknowledged Wednesday by Bishop Patrick J. McGrath was one that allegedly involved two young girls, another that involved at least one teenage boy and a third that was reported to him several weeks ago by a mother who says her grown son had been abused by a priest decades ago. That priest has died.

McGrath also confirmed that an abuse allegation was made against the Rev. Joseph T. Pritchard, another deceased San Jose priest now accused of abusing boys in his parish during the 1970s.

McGrath, who came to the San Jose diocese in 1998 from San Francisco, did not identify the other priests involved in the newly disclosed incidents. The priests accused in these incidents are either retired or dead and therefore no longer a danger to minors, he said. The most recent incident was eight to 10 years ago.

``They are no longer in ministry,'' he said of the priests. ``They are not involved at all.

``There is no coverup here. I want to find out what happened in the past and in the present. If there's anything going on now, I want people to tell me.''

The cases discussed by McGrath are distinct from those involving Jesuits in Los Gatos who are accused of molesting two retarded kitchen workers at a retirement center. The Jesuits are a separate Roman Catholic order over whom McGrath has no authority.

McGrath said he mentioned just the two cases in March because they involved priests who were criminally charged and continue to work in the diocese. One spent time in jail and one was put on probation.

Each of the two men received psychological treatment and each was diagnosed as ``not being a sexual predator,'' McGrath said. Also important, he said, is that they have subsequently worked in jobs in the diocese that keep them away from minors.

One of those cases goes back nine or 10 years, he said, the other more than 20 years -- to a time when local parishes belonged to the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The Diocese of San Jose was carved out of the archdiocese in 1981.

McGrath said it was his understanding that the newly disclosed cases involving the young girls and the teenage boy had been turned over to the police as soon as the diocese learned of them a decade or so ago.

But Bishop Pierre DuMaine, who preceded McGrath as leader of the San Jose diocese's approximately 400,000 Catholics, said he recalled only one of the cases being investigated by law enforcement. Neither man recalled criminal charges being made in that case.

``The circumstances in these cases are never simple or straightforward,'' DuMaine said. ``I could never get any verification to take any disciplinary action.''

The case of the girls, he said, came to his attention when the alleged victims were in their 20s and experienced ``recovered memory.'' The molestation, DuMaine said, was alleged to have occurred ``many years'' before the women came forward.

McGrath, who spoke for over an hour, said he has yet to fully examine the more than 1,400 personnel files of lay employees.

He said that none of the accused remain active in any church ministry.

McGrath invited anyone who knows about sexual abuse by clerics or lay leaders to ``come forward and they will receive a sympathetic welcome and I want to hear.''

But he added that the diocese would not seek to locate and talk to victims on its own, because the overture might not be welcomed: ``I do not want to invade people's privacy,'' he said.

McGrath said he is putting together a review board to re-examine the diocese's guidelines regarding sexual misconduct.

He intends to ask this board to examine the structure of the diocese's ``special incidents team,'' a six-person group that investigates all accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct against priests and any other diocesan employees. He will suggest that the team be expanded, he said, to include a victim of sexual abuse, or the parent of a victim, as well as a psychologist or psychiatrist, someone from law enforcement, and perhaps a retired judge.

In the meantime, McGrath said, he is doing his best to respond to problems as they arise. Two or three weeks ago, he said, he wrote a letter to the grown man who may have been abused decades ago by a priest, now dead.

``I've written to the man,'' McGrath said. ``I've asked him to please tell us his story.''

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