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St. Francis Priest Is Removed

The Franciscans cite publicity about his past abuse but say he posed no threat

Jul 12, 2003 | Sacramento Bee

The Franciscan Order removed a priest from Sacramento's St. Francis of Assisi parish Friday morning after the man's past sexual misconduct became public.

In a written statement, the Franciscan Friars defended placing their priest, the Rev. Gus Krumm, in Sacramento, saying he posed no risk to children. They are moving him, they said, because of publicity. A story revealing Krumm's history appeared in The Bee on Friday.

"We acknowledge that Father Gus did wrong in the past," the statement says. "We believe that we have taken appropriate steps in this situation." The Franciscans would not reveal their plans for the priest.

In May 2002, the order removed Krumm as pastor of an Oregon parish after he admitted to sexually abusing minors while teaching at a Santa Barbara seminary during the 1970s and 1980s.

For the past year and a half, widespread revelations of priests' sex abuse of children have shaken the Roman Catholic Church. Church leaders were criticized for covering up cases and for secretly moving guilty priests from parish to parish.

Responding to the crisis, Sacramento Bishop William K. Weigand established a "zero tolerance" policy for those who abuse children, promising new openness in his diocese.

But Weigand never knew about Krumm.

Krumm moved to Sacramento about six weeks ago and lived in the St. Francis friary in midtown, which is adjacent to the parish school. Franciscan friars at St. Francis were aware of Krumm's past, but neither the congregation nor the Sacramento Diocese was told.

The Franciscan religious community, with its own hierarchy, operates independently of local bishops. They view Krumm's assignment as an internal matter for the order, so they say it was unnecessary to inform diocesan officials or St. Francis parishioners.

This position angered advocates for sex-abuse victims.

"I can only hope and pray that (Krumm) doesn't resurface near a school again," said David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "They need to put him someplace far away from children."

An Oakland man who says he was molested by Krumm in 1980 is not surprised that the priest was moved again.

"Snatch 'em and stash 'em -- that's the Franciscans' way," said Ignacio Acevas, who received an undisclosed settlement from the order. "If Krumm isn't a threat, why did they have to keep it a secret?"

Sacramento diocesan officials, who felt they should have been told about Krumm, also responded to the priest's removal Friday.

"We are grateful for the Franciscan cooperation and sensitivity to this matter," said the Rev. David Deibel, vicar for canonical affairs for the diocese.

But Martha Sodman, whose 11-year-old grandson attends St. Francis school, was less measured in her response.

"I'm glad he's gone," she said. "But they didn't tell us where he went, did they? I don't trust them."

The Rev. Anthony Garibaldi, parish administrator at St. Francis, said he's heard from other families who were shocked and concerned about Krumm's presence in their community.

Garibaldi said he plans to speak about the situation at every Mass this weekend. A written statement about Krumm will also be distributed to parishioners.

"I understand the concern of parents," Garibaldi said, "but I can assure you he did not have any contact with children."

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