Catholic order, New Lenox school pay $2 million over accusation ex-principal raped a student

— The payout is in a lawsuit regarding the Rev. Richard McGrath, an Augustinian priest who ran Providence Catholic High School — and took the Fifth when asked about child pornography.

Rev. Richard J. McGrath, former president of Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox, in 2006.

By Robert Herguth

If Robert Krankvich could ask a question of the Rev. Richard McGrath, the Catholic priest who Krankvich says raped him when he was a student at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox in the 1990s, it would be: “Why? Why me?”

The Augustinian Catholic religious order that McGrath belongs to and the school it runs that’s owned by the Diocese of Joliet has reached a $2 million settlement on the eve of a trial over a lawsuit Krankvich filed, lawyers confirmed.

Church officials admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the payout to end the civil case.

But records reviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times and interviews by the newspaper show there were warning signs about McGrath.

The diocese — the arm of the church for DuPage and Will counties that brought in the Augustinians to run Providence in the 1980s — has said it is looking at closing or merging numerous parishes and elementary schools, partly over finances. Diocesan officials have declined to say how much money they have spent on settlements and other costs linked to child sex abuse accusations against clergy members and others over the years.

Earlier this year, McGrath was questioned under oath about accusations in the lawsuit that he raped Krankvich. The priest responded that he never engaged in “any unlawful, immoral or sexually improper conduct with any student.”

He also was asked whether he had ever viewed child pornography during the time he was president of Providence. McGrath declined to answer, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Augustinians and secrecy

The Augustinian order, which also runs St. Rita High School on the South Side, remains one of the few prominent Catholic organizations in the Chicago region that still withholds from the public the names of known sex offenders within its ranks, though it says it plans to end such secrecy.

“The Augustinians are committed to being transparent within the bounds of canon and civil law,” the order said in a written statement. “They are presently engaged in the process of preparing a list of those Augustinian friars” with established “allegations of abuse, which will be published within the first quarter of 2024.”

Attorney Jeff Anderson at a 2018 news conference with attorney Marc Pearlman (right) and former Providence Catholic High School student Robert Krankvich (left), who filed a lawsuit against the Augustinians, saying he was sexually abused by the Rev. Richard McGrath.
Attorney Jeff Anderson (center) at a 2018 news conference with attorney Marc Pearlman (right) and former Providence Catholic High School student Robert Krankvich (left), who filed a lawsuit against the Augustinians, saying he was sexually abused by the Rev. Richard McGrath.

Krankvich said, “My hope is with this case getting resolved, more victims and survivors will have the strength and courage to come forward. Because they’re not alone.”

McGrath couldn’t be reached. His lawyer declined to comment.

A revelation that emerged in the Krankvich case centered on an anonymous letter sent to the Augustinians about McGrath, complaining that he repeatedly massaged students’ shoulders at Providence and made them feel uncomfortable.

The letter apparently came from a Providence parent between 2006 and 2010 and began, “Dear Augustinian provincial, please make Father McGrath stop giving . . . back rubs to the boys at Providence.”

The letter said McGrath “also watches the boys in the weight room and does it there, too.”

“Some other parents want to sue the Augustinians, but I don’t want my son exposed to” a legal process.

The letter writer said the note was being forwarded to Bishop J. Peter Sartain, then in charge of the Joliet diocese.

But there is no evidence that anyone from the diocese, now run by Bishop Ron Hicks, or the order forwarded the complaint to Providence or told McGrath to stop, records show.

Sartain couldn’t be reached. Hicks’ office didn’t respond to a reporter’s questions.

The Rev. Anthony Pizzo, who’s now in charge of Chicago-area Augustinians but wasn’t at the time of those allegations, also was deposed for the lawsuit. Pizzo was asked by Krankvich’s lawyer Marc Pearlman what was done in response to the letter.

The Rev. Anthony Pizzo in 2018.
The Rev. Anthony Pizzo in 2018.

“I don’t know,” Pizzo said. “It doesn’t seem to be anything.”

Asked what he would do today if he had received that letter, Pizzo said, “Hypothetically, I would provide the letter” to the high school.

“I can say this, is it inappropriate now? Yes,” Pizzo said about the conduct described in the letter. “However, I also believe in putting it into context. It’s not something I would support in any way. However, back then, I don’t know what Father McGrath’s intentions were . . . just perhaps he may have been affirming the kids, just putting his hands on their shoulders.”

Pearlman said, “We don’t know what the intention of Father McGrath was because nobody asked him, correct?”

That’s correct, Pizzo said.

More accusations

Another Augustinian questioned in the case was the Rev. John Merkelis, who became president at Providence in 2018, shortly after McGrath’s departure. He fielded a strange call around that time from another man who’d attended the school years earlier.

Seeming “agitated,” the man left a voicemail stating the “issue was Father McGrath,” and that he “had rubbed his shoulders” as a student, Merkelis said in his deposition.

After consulting with an attorney representing the order, Merkelis called back the man, who went on what seemed like a “stream of consciousness rant,” saying he had been drinking when he left the message. He told Merkelis, “I don’t want to go anywhere with this. I don’t want any kind of money.”

The Rev. John Merkelis.
The Rev. John Merkelis.

Around that time the same man called police in New Lenox and said he had been molested by two priests while he was a Providence student years earlier, and that McGrath was one of them, records show.

When investigators followed up with the man, he recanted.

But, according to a police report, he said McGrath would enter the boys’ locker room after football games and “stand at the entrance of the showers” and talk with the students “and stare at the naked boys while they took showers.”

McGrath also “blocked the entrance/exit,” causing “the boys to touch Father McGrath on their way out of the shower area,” the police report said.

Questioned at his deposition about standing by the showers, McGrath said, “I don’t recall doing that.”

Asked about rubbing shoulders, McGrath said, “I don’t recall specifically doing that.”

Regarding other physical contact with students, he said, “We’d hug, Providence hugged.”

McGrath’s ouster from Providence

Merkelis also spoke in his deposition about the incident that led to McGrath being forced out at Providence in December 2017 — and that, once publicized, prompted Krankvich to come forward with his accusations from his earlier time as a student.

Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox.
Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox.

McGrath was attending a wrestling match at the school, as he often did. He was sitting in the stands when a female student saw him looking at a photo on his cellphone of what appeared to be a young naked boy, records show.

Horrified, the student reported it to staff, and the complaint landed with Merkelis, who called police.

An officer came to the school and, along with Merkelis, approached McGrath in his office.

“Did you ask Father McGrath to turn over his cellphone?” one of Krankvich’s attorneys asked Merkelis in his deposition.

“I did,” the priest said.

“And what did he say to that?” Merkelis was asked.

“That he would not,” Merkelis said.

The attorney asked, “Did he say why he would not?”

Merkelis said, “He did not.”

A police report says McGrath eventually “stood up and walked out of the office, advising that he needed to get to the theater.”

Merkelis says the phone belonged to the school, not McGrath.

The order’s attorney, Michael Airdo, later spoke with McGrath’s attorney Patrick Reardon about the phone and “was advised . . . that no evidence exists,” the police report says.

The cover page of a just-settled lawsuit filed in 2018 against the Augustinians by Robert Krankvich.
The just-settled lawsuit filed in 2018 against the Augustinians by Robert Krankvich.

The following month, police asked McGrath to come in for an interview, records show. He deferred to Reardon, who said no. When police asked Reardon about McGrath’s cellphone, he “explained that he does not think the cellphone will surface or ever turn up,” police records show.

And it hasn’t.

Deposed for the lawsuit, McGrath asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions when asked whether he had been looking at child pornography on his phone and whether he destroyed that phone.

He called his current relationship with Merkelis “problematic” because he “brought a policeman to my office in 2017, which started this whole mess.”

Asked what McGrath expected Merkelis to do, McGrath took the Fifth again.

McGrath moves near a Catholic school

McGrath portrayed his departure from Providence as a forced exit. The order moved him from his longtime residence next to Providence, he said, to a monastery it runs on the South Side near the University of Chicago.

But neither the Augustinians nor the Archdiocese of Chicago, the arm of the church for Cook and Lake counties run by Hicks’ mentor, Cardinal Blase Cupich, told a Catholic school nearby or an adjacent preschool of McGrath’s presence.

After the Chicago Sun-Times reported he was living there, McGrath was sent away.

An online advertisement showing the Augustinians’ Hyde Park monastery is for sale.
An online advertisement showing the Augustinians’ Hyde Park monastery is for sale.

The South Side monastery was recently put up for sale for $1 million. An Augustinian representative says the McGrath suit didn’t prompt the decision to sell.

It’s unclear how much of the settlement with Krankvich the Augustinians and the Joliet diocese, whose lawyer was involved in defending the lawsuit, each covered and where the money came from.

McGrath said in his deposition that his order next wanted him to move into its complex in Crown Point, Indiana, but that, too, was close to a preschool, so he refused.

He decided to move away from the order, which declared him “illegitimately absent.” Members of the order take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and he no longer was obeying his superiors.

This highlighted one of the many inconsistencies that emerged since then, according to records and interviews.

McGrath violated a core aspect of being an Augustinian but wasn’t kicked out — though it appears the order at this point, six years later, is moving toward expulsion, court records show.

Church officials said they weren’t financially supporting him, but they were helping with his “supplemental medical coverage” — while McGrath made money helping around the house of an older former parishioner, he said in his deposition.

McGrath said his order didn’t know where he lives but acknowledged staying in regular touch with a fellow Augustinian priest in Indiana he regards as a close friend and who knows where he lives.

A broader silence

The Augustinians in the Chicago region as yet haven’t made public a list of members linked to sex abuse even as other orders such as the Jesuits, Dominicans and Carmelites have made moves toward greater transparency.

Cardinal Robert Prevost, a Chicago native and Augustinian, once ran the order’s Chicago-based province that covers the Midwest and also served as the international leader of the group, based in Rome, reporting to the pope. Recently, he was elevated by Pope Francis to be one of the top officials at the Vatican, overseeing an office involved in selecting new bishops, a powerful post.

Prevost had the authority to make the order publicly disclose abusers in its ranks, but there’s no evidence he did.

In 2021, a Sun-Times reporter asked Prevost for help in getting answers from his Chicago counterparts. He said, “I’ll see what I can do,” but didn’t respond to follow-up questions.

Pizzo wouldn’t address questions about Prevost not creating public lists, but said, “Nothing is more important to the Augustinians and me than transparency. Years before it became the general law of the church, under the leadership of Fr. Prevost put into place the requirement that there be a set of protocols . . . to guide all members in the different aspects of promoting child protection as well as in responding to cases where accusations might be received.”

As for the settlement, Pizzo said, “We continue to hold all of those involved in this matter in our prayers. . . . There is no higher priority for the Augustinians than the safety and well-being of those entrusted to our care. We have implemented robust child protection policies and procedures intended to ensure the safety of students and to provide a nurturing environment for all to whom we minister.”

Dioceses are geographic arms of the church, led by a bishop. Religious orders generally operate beyond such boundaries, each embracing a particular mission or following in the mold of a saint. In the case of the Augustinians, it’s theologian-philosopher St. Augustine.

Most orders, including the Augustinians, belong to a consortium called the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, which long has recommended that its members be transparent about sex abuse by clergy, in part by publishing lists of known offenders — a step that victims and many church leaders have said acknowledges the suffering inflicted on the abused and can help healing.

Cardinal Robert Prevost earlier this year with Pope Francis.
Cardinal Robert Prevost earlier this year with Pope Francis.

Airdo, one of the Augustinians’ lawyers in the Krankvich case, has worked with the major superiors conference, according to his law firm biography.

During depositions for the Krankvich case, he repeatedly told the priests who were being questioned not to answer certain questions.

Pearlman asked Pizzo during his deposition, “As you sit here today, are you aware of any Augustinians who have had established allegations” regarding “sexual misconduct with a minor?”

Airdo interjected, “Objection . . . Father, you will not answer those questions.”

“It’s a yes-or-no question, by the way,” Pearlman said.

“You will not answer those questions,” Airdo told Pizzo.

“Father, are you going to follow counsel’s instruction not to answer that question?” Pearlman asked.

Pizzo said, “Correct.”

Representatives of the Augustinians say some of the questions from Krankvich’s lawyers were irrelevant or not allowed in this setting, so cutting off a line of inquiry was appropriate.

Pearlman disagrees.

Besides McGrath, five Augustinians from the Chicago region are listed by the Bishop Accountability watchdog group as alleged child sex offenders.

Krankvich says he continues to struggle because of the abuse he suffered.

“I’ve had several suicide attempts, and I’m still here,” Krankvich says. “So there’s a guardian angel.”

Complete Article HERE!

Church, state fail victims

By Claudia Vercellotti and David Clohessy

One of the most notorious predator priests in northwest Ohio has just been given a stiff sentence for his sex crimes by a federal judge after this case came to the attention of the FB, in an unrelated investigation.`

Last Friday, Judge Jack Zouhary sent Fr. Michael J. Zacharias to a federal prison for a long time.

The priest, formerly the pastor of St. Michael’s parish in Findlay, was arrested by the FBI in 2020 on multiple charges of sexual crimes, including human trafficking.

He allegedly “manipulated and coerced drug-addicted boys and men into sex” and made a “confession video” in which he performed oral sex on a then-adult victim.

Zacharias admits to first meeting one of his victims when he was an aspiring Seminarian and the boy was a sixth-grader at St. Catherine’s in Toledo.

According to, a second young man told the FBI he met Zacharias as a first-grader, and that the then-seminarian began sexually abusing him as a teen after being ordained a Deacon and then Catholic priest.

Does it get much uglier than this?

Be very disturbed

Here are several takeaways from this disturbing case:

• For decades, the Catholic hierarchy has claimed “these predator priests all hurt kids a long time ago. We’ve since gotten better at selecting and training more healthy seminarians and priests.”

• Their intent is clear: promote complacency, mollify the flock and pretend these crimes are all in the past. But Zacharias’ crime spree started when he was a seminary student studying to become a priest. It continued through his ordination as a Catholic deacon and then a Catholic priest and, worse still, after the Toledo Catholic Diocese revamped its own policies on childhood sexual abuse.

• The Catholic Church hierarchy’s claim is at best premature and at worst intentionally misleading.

There’s some truth here of course. For instance, Fr. Stanislaus Wojciechowski was ordained in 1937, Fr. Alexander Pinter was ordained in 1943, Fr. Joseph J. Pucci was ordained in 1941, and Fr. George Schmit was ordained in 1935. All of these clerics worked in the Toledo diocese and are “credibly accused” child molesters, according to official church websites.

But plenty of other sexually troubled clerics joined the ranks of the ordained more recently. Among them are:

• Former Central Catholic High School religion teacher Fr. Stephen Rogers — ordained in 1995, later convicted of child pornography in 2003

• Deacon J. Michael Tynan was days away from being ordained when he was arrested and ultimately convicted of child pornography in 2004.

• Fr. Samuel Punnoor — ordained in 1996, deemed “credibly accused” in 2020

• Fr. James H. Roth — ordained in 1995, later deemed “credibly accused” by church officials in 2015

How about Zacharias? He was ordained in 2002.

Clearly, bad men are still joining the priesthood. Doesn’t this mean continued vigilance, not foolish complacency, is required by parents, parishioners, police, prosecutors and the public?

Which court?

Ohio lawmakers should take note of where Zacharias was held accountable for his crimes — in a federal courtroom.

This was the third Diocese of Toledo Catholic cleric to face sentencing in federal court since 2002 when the Diocesan officials joined U.S. bishops nationwide pledging “openness, honesty and transparency.”

Why wasn’t Zacharias tried in state court?

Largely because Ohio legislators continue to cave to lobbyists for the bishops and the insurance industry by refusing to eliminate or extend Ohio’s archaic, predator-friendly statute of limitations.

Most states are lifting these arbitrary deadlines so more victims can use the courts to warn the public about child molesters.

But, tragically, Ohio continues to protect those who commit and conceal horrific crimes against kids, instead of protecting the kids themselves.

Worse still? When child advocates publicly asked Ohio Attorney General Yost to follow the steps of other surrounding states and convene a formal investigation into the cover-up of sexual crimes against minors by the Roman Catholic church, he publicly said ‘his hands are tied,’ and deferred activists to lawmakers.

This must change in the next legislative session.

One might think that Zacharias’ particularly heinous crimes and harsh sentence might light a fire under Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas and prod him to take decisive action towards prevention and disclosure of clergy sex crimes. Afterall Zacharias served in Toledo, Findlay, Van Wert, Mansfield and Sandusky.

Is it possible there are other victims?

His crimes that are known spanned over two decades. What is Thomas doing to actively reach out to every parishioner, alumni and the communities at large where this now-convicted sex offender worked and lived?

Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Within hours of the judge’s decision, Thomas issued a short, tepid statement to the media essentially “passing the buck” to the Vatican, which makes the ultimate decision on whether a convicted sex offender will be formally defrocked or remain in the priesthood.

“Today’s sentencing of Michael Zacharias in federal court marks another step towards justice for all of those harmed by his actions. As I expressed in my May 12, 2023, statement following his conviction, “The acts of which Rev. Michael Zacharias has been found guilty are reprehensible, morally deplorable, and manifestly contrary to the dignity due to each human person and the dignity of the priesthood.”

Why does the bishop do active roll-out campaigns when he is fundraising or lobbying for votes in state elections, and only issue a small statement electronically in what the federal judge called, “one of the most disturbing cases” he’s presided over?

The bishop made no pledges to try harder or do better regarding kids’ safety. Somewhat shockingly, he made no mention of Zacharias victims. He didn’t praise them for their courage or even offer an apology to them.

The bare minimum

And, predictably, Thomas failed to acknowledge the unrefuted testimony of an eighth-grade victim who testified under oath that he reported to the pastor at St. Catherine’s shortly after then-seminarian Zacharias first sexually abused him only to be told, ‘It’s all in your head.”

Even the federal judge acknowledged during Zacharias’ sentencing the credibility of the victims and the efforts the eighth-grade victim made to report timely that were not followed up on by church officials.

How many crimes and lives could have been spared falling prey to Zacharias if the pastor who this information was reported to had simply called the police? Notified the victims’ parents?

Worst of all, perhaps, Thomas refused to appeal to other victims, witnesses or whistleblowers — with information about Zacharias’ crimes or other wrongdoing by other church staff — to step forward and call law enforcement.

That’s precisely what a true leader would do: take affirmative steps to root out corruption in his institution. That’s what must happen if abuse is to be exposed, cover-ups are to be deterred, and children are to be safer.

Instead, however, Thomas does what so many in the Catholic hierarchy have done for so long and still do: the absolute bare minimum.

But thankfully, Toledo-area Catholics are increasingly taking a different tack.

More and more, we have noticed that churchgoers are slowly becoming better able to detect grooming and abuse, and they are more inclined to report it to police and prosecutors.

Still, more must be done, especially by those at the highest ranks of the church, to safeguard the vulnerable and heal the wounded.

As the government’s case against Fr. Michael Zacharias, whose crimes span at least two decades illustrates, the stakes are just too high to ignore. These clergy child predators do not spontaneously stop.

They must be stopped.

Complete Article HERE!

A French bishop is accused of attempted rape in latest scandal to hit Catholic Church in France

FILE – All of the bishops of France attend a mass in Notre-Dame Cathedral in Lourdes, southwestern France, on Nov. 9, 2019. A French bishop has been given a preliminary charge of attempting to rape an adult man a decade ago, the Paris prosecutor’s office said Monday Nov. 20, 2023. It is the latest of a growing number of accusations of sexual abuse by clergy in France.

By Associated Press

A French bishop has been given a preliminary charge of attempting to rape an adult man a decade ago, the Paris prosecutor’s office said Monday. It is the latest of a growing number of accusations of sexual abuse by clergy in France.

Père Georges Colomb, Supérieur général des MEP.

The Bishops’ Conference of France said the accused bishop, Georges Colomb, contests the charge and deserves the presumption of innocence. He has asked the Vatican to step aside from his duties as bishop of La Rochelle and Saintes in western France to prepare his defense.

French investigative website Mediapart reported that senior figures in the Catholic Church were aware of the accusations for years.

The allegations didn’t reach prosecutors until May of this year. That’s when lawyers for the Archdiocese of Paris and a Catholic group called the Foreign Missions of Paris, shortened to MEP in French, submitted a report of a rape attempt by Colomb in 2013, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Colomb headed the MEP from 2010 to 2016, and his accuser was staying in MEP facilities at the time of the incident, according to French media reports. Colomb became a bishop in 2016.

As a result of the ensuing investigation, Colomb was detained for questioning last week and magistrates filed a preliminary charge on Friday, the prosecutor’s office said. Colomb is under judicial supervision and barred from contact with the victim or witnesses pending further investigation.

His accuser has not been publicly named. After the alleged rape attempt, the man spoke about what happened to another official in the MEP, Gilles Reithinger.

Reithinger told public broadcaster France-3 that the man said Colomb proposed an oil massage that made him uncomfortable but didn’t mention any sexual wrongdoing. Reithinger, now bishop of Strasbourg, said he raised the issue with Colomb’s superior at the time but didn’t see any reason to report the incident to prosecutors.

The bishops’ conference said in a statement Monday that it expresses its concern for the alleged victim, and offered support for ‘’all those who are troubled or hurt by this news.’’

A lawyer for Colomb did not respond to request for comment.

France is coming to terms with decades of covered-up abuse by church-related figures amid a global reckoning over the issue.

France’s bishops’ conference agreed to provide reparations after a 2021 report estimated some 330,000 children were sexually abused over 70 years by priests or other church-related figures in the country. The estimates were based on broader research by France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research into sexual abuse of children.

Complete Article HERE!

Priest Sentenced to Life in Prison for Sex Trafficking Three Victims in Northern Ohio

Fr. Michael Zacharias

A priest was sentenced today to life in prison for sex trafficking in northern Ohio.

A federal jury in Toledo, Ohio, previously found defendant Michael Zacharias, 56, guilty of five counts of sex trafficking following a two-week trial in May. Evidence presented at trial showed that Zacharias met the victims through his affiliation with a Catholic school. The evidence showed that he used his affiliation and position of authority to groom the boys and grow close with their families before ultimately coercing the victims into engaging in commercial sex acts and manipulating the opioid addictions they developed.

“Michael Zacharias used his position as a trusted spiritual leader and role model for young boys and their families to exploit them in the most insidious ways, coercing his victims from childhood and beyond to engage in commercial sex with him,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This sentence sends a very clear message that those who abuse their positions of power and authority to sexually assault and exploit children will be held accountable. The Justice Department stands ready to fully enforce our federal human trafficking statutes while seeking justice for the survivors of these treacherous crimes.”

“Michael Zacharias’ victims trusted him, as a spiritual advisor, a confidant, a community leader and someone in a position of authority. He exploited his position and that trust to target and victimize young boys and their families, causing lasting damage to both,” said U.S. Attorney Rebecca C. Lutzko for the Northern District of Ohio. “Zacharias was held accountable because of the courageous testimony of these young men, who gave voice to his betrayal and abuse, relieved this unimaginable horror and withstood Zacharias’ predictable attempts at trial to attack their veracity. I applaud the bravery of these young men, the people who supported them and the dogged efforts of the assigned FBI agent, who together exposed this predator, masquerading as a man of faith. Although no amount of time can ever wholly repair the damage that Zacharias inflicted on his victims, the life sentence that he received today is a significant step toward finding justice and protecting our community. It sends a message to others who consider similar conduct that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will aggressively pursue charges against those who target our children.”

“For more than two decades, Michael Zacharias used his position as a priest to groom and abuse young boys,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Zacharias met his victims when they were as young as five and began exploiting them for commercial sex acts and enabling their resulting opioid addictions. We are profoundly thankful to the victims and families who reported Zacharias and helped the FBI and our partners put an end to further abuse.”

“Using a position of trust while deviously preying on one’s vulnerabilities, especially juveniles, is reprehensible,” said Special Agent in Charge Greg Nelsen of the FBI Cleveland Field Office. “The FBI has zero tolerance for sexual predators and those who commit crimes against children. We will continue to find and investigate individuals and their network who exploit and traffic children and seek justice for the victims and their families.”

Evidence presented at trial, including the testimony of victims and family members, established that the defendant met the victims when they were minor parochial school students through his affiliation with their school. The evidence showed that the defendant served as a respected member of the clergy for more than 20 years, while exploiting his victims over extended periods as they developed opioid addictions and criminal records.

According to testimony and other evidence presented at trial, including financial and phone records, the defendant manipulated the victims’ fears of opioid withdrawal and homelessness to exploit them for commercial sex acts he directed them to perform in exchange for money.

The FBI Cleveland Field Office, Lima and Toledo Resident Agencies investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracey Tangeman for the Northern District of Ohio and Trial Attorney Lindsey Roberson of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit prosecuted the case.

Anyone who has information about human trafficking should report that information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information about human trafficking, please visit

. Information on the Justice Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking can be found at

Complete Article HERE!

Bay Area Priests Accused of Child Molestation Remain in Active Ministry

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption is seen in San Francisco on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023. The Cathedral is the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

By Alex Hall

A San Mateo priest accused of molestation in a lawsuit is one of two accused clergy who remain in active ministry with the Archdiocese of San Francisco as the church faces renewed questions over how it responds to sexual abuse allegations.

The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County in November 2022, alleges Father Linh Tien Nguyen sexually abused a former altar boy and student of St. Pius Catholic Church and School in Redwood City between approximately 2005 and 2008.

The plaintiff in the case, identified as “M.S.,” alleges he was between 10 and 13 years old. He is now in his late 20s.

“This young person has got a lot of courage,” said Dan McNevin, Oakland leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. “If there’s any good news in this, it’s that this survivor had the courage at a very young age to come forward and has probably expedited the healing of a lot more kids.”

Official Catholic Church records show Nguyen worked as a pastor at St. Pius from 2005 through 2009. He is currently an associate pastor at St. Bartholomew Parish in San Mateo.

Nguyen and other staff members of St. Bartholomew did not respond to KQED’s requests for comment on the allegation.

A second priest, Father David Ghiorso, faces multiple allegations of sexual abuse of young boys at St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael and a Sonoma County summer camp in the 1980s and ’90s, according to court records and a source familiar with one of the cases.

The details of the accusations are laid out in documents from two lawsuits filed in Alameda County — one in 2020 and another in 2022. Today, Ghiorso is the pastor of St. Charles Parish in San Carlos and St. Matthias Church in Redwood City.

The allegations in the lawsuits have not been proven. The plaintiffs either declined or did not respond to interview requests.

“I can tell you that the Archdiocese followed its procedures in the instances you raised and that Fr. Ghiorso and Fr. Nguyen are priests in good standing and have faculties to minister in the Archdiocese,” Peter Marlow, the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s executive director of communications and media relations, told KQED in an email.

The Archdiocese also denies the allegations in legal filings.

News of the allegation against Nguyen comes as the Archdiocese is pressed for details in bankruptcy proceedings about how it handles sexual abuse allegations, and which priests it has deemed credibly accused.

On Nov. 8, the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, which represents survivors, requested the court’s authorization to subpoena the Archdiocese for documents on the church’s finances and allegations of abuse dating back multiple decades. The Archdiocese objected, calling the request “excessively overbroad, vague and harassing.” A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 30.

A man poses for a portrait looking at the camera with his hand on his chin.
A newsletter for St. Veronica’s Parish includes a welcome note and a photo of Father Linh Tien Nguyen.

The Archdiocese sought Chapter 11 protection in federal bankruptcy court in August as it faced more than 530 lawsuits filed by individuals alleging sexual abuse by clergy or others associated with the Archdiocese under a 2019 state law, Assembly Bill 218, or the California Child Victims Act. The law waived all time limits for abuse claims from 2020 through the end of last year, and it permanently extended age limits to sue for childhood molestation — from age 26 to 40 years old or within five years after the discovery of the abuse.

The bankruptcy proceedings effectively froze all the state court cases filed against the San Francisco Archdiocese, its institutions and clergy.

In recent back-to-back legal calls in the bankruptcy case, representatives of the Archdiocese answered questions under oath from the Office of the U.S. Trustee and the committee about the church’s financial situation and knowledge of abuse allegations. Officials said the church had found no accusations against clergy to be credible in the past decade, but has become aware of multiple allegations in that time.

In a Sept. 28 meeting of creditors, the Archdiocese’s Vicar General, Father Patrick Summerhays, disclosed that two active priests and two retired priests had been accused of abuse. Each has been exonerated by the church’s internal process, according to the Archdiocese.

“I have not yet received a credible allegation against a priest, although I have received allegations,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said two weeks later in a continuation of the hearing, referring to his 11 years as Archbishop.

When asked how many cases the Archdiocese has received in that time, Cordileone said there have been seven or eight accusations the church has had to investigate.

The Archdiocese’s process for responding to an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor involves reporting the allegation to civil authorities and removing the accused priest from active ministry while an investigation is conducted by a qualified investigator. A report on the findings of that investigation are handed over to the Archdiocese’s Independent Review Board, a panel of lay people who issues a recommendation to the Archbishop as to whether the allegation is ‘sustained’ or ‘not sustained,’ according to the Archdiocese’s website and church representatives.

“I’ve heard different theories as to what credibly accused means,” Cordileone said. “I try not to use that term and rather use [the] term ‘sustained’ or ‘not sustained.’”

What standard the Independent Review Board, or IRB, uses to determine if an allegation is sustained is unclear, James Stang, an attorney for the Unsecured Creditors’ Committee, later told KQED in a phone interview.

A building on a city street with the words "Archdiocese of San Francisco" written over the entrance.
The Archdiocese of San Francisco is seen on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023.

“I can’t find anything that defines it in what the public can see on the website,” Stang said. “In other words, if I go to the website, and they discuss the review board process, I don’t see a definition of what constitutes a sustained claim.”

He continued: “I think the public should know what it means to have a sustained accusation. There has to be a definition somewhere. It can’t just be a gut check. There must be some standard that these review board people are using.”

While there isn’t a single, uniform definition of what constitutes a “credible accusation” against a priest that is shared across all Catholic dioceses, many have publicly shared their interpretations alongside published lists of credibly accused priests in their jurisdiction.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco is the only diocese in California that, to date, has not published such a list. Instead, the Archdiocese maintains a public list of priests and deacons in good standing who are approved for ministry in the Archdiocese.

In its Nov. 8 filing, the creditors’ committee asked for records related to abuse claims dating back to as early as 1941. Among them: personnel files of accused priests, communication between the Archdiocese and law enforcement agencies over the years, and documents explaining the church’s interpretation of “credibly accused.” It also requests documents from the paper trail of the church’s evaluation of sexual abuse allegations, including IRB meeting minutes, interview notes and recommendations.

When asked what standard of proof the IRB uses to determine if an allegation is “sustained” or not, Marlow said, “The process is for the Independent Review Board to review a claim and the investigator’s report and any other relevant information that can support a recommendation.”

When pressed for more details, he declined to clarify that aspect of the process further. In a subsequent email, Marlow elaborated on what happens when the IRB determines that an allegation is sustained. If the IRB finds that there is sufficient evidence to warrant a canonical trial and the trial results in a conviction, then the accused priest would be permanently removed from ministry. If the IRB finds that an accusation is not sustained, then the priest is reinstated to active ministry and damage to his reputation is remediated.

Lines of text between two people.
In a Sept. 28 meeting of creditors, the Archdiocese of San Francisco Vicar General, Father Patrick Summerhays, disclosed that two active priests and two retired priests have been accused of abuse.

The IRB was established in 2002, the same year that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy often referred to as the Dallas Charter.

“Review boards were strangled in the crib before they could do something,” said Jim Jenkins, a retired East Bay psychologist who was the IRB’s first chairman at its inception.

Jenkins resigned in 2004 over concerns about the board’s integrity and ability to investigate independently. During his time on the panel, it was the Archbishop who decided what to do with an allegation, not the IRB, Jenkins told KQED.

“When they say the review board reviewed this and did not find anything sustained, that may be true,” Jenkins said. “But the fact that father so and so is recommended to be suspended — that is completely up to the Archbishop. They would never allow anyone else to make that decision. Certainly not lay people.”

Jenkins acknowledged that nearly 20 years have passed since he served on the board, which may have different processes today.

Attorneys for the Archdiocese stated that Cordileone has always followed the IRB’s guidance. Three IRB members contacted by KQED did not respond to interview requests.

A cross atop a building.
Saint Charles Parish is seen in San Carlos, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023.

Nguyen was placed on administrative leave in October 2022 and returned to ministry two months later, according to the Archdiocese. Ghiorso went on leave for around two months in late 2021.

Marlow declined to say what information the Archdiocese found in its investigations that resulted in Nguyen and Ghiorso both returning to ministry.

“While IRB investigations and recommendations are not shared with the media, I can tell you that the Archdiocese followed its procedures in the instances you raised and that Fr. Ghiorso and Fr. Nguyen are priests in good standing and have faculties to minister in the Archdiocese,” Marlow told KQED in an email.

Spencer Lucas, the attorney representing the complainant identified as M.S. in the lawsuit accusing Nguyen, expressed skepticism about the church’s processes.

“We do know that the Catholic Church, on a very broad scale, has done an inadequate investigation into many, many of these claims,” he said. “We should all be concerned that the church has not taken adequate steps to properly investigate claims and to institute appropriate training to raise awareness about this ongoing problem.”

‘We have our own list’

Survivors and advocates have been calling on the Archdiocese of San Francisco to release a list of priests who have been credibly accused under its watch for years.

In the Oct. 12 meeting of creditors, Cordileone disclosed that while the list hasn’t been released to the public, it does exist.

A sign on a wall beside a building reading "St. Pius Church".
The Mass schedule is posted outside St. Pius Catholic Church and School in Redwood City, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023.

“Does the Archdiocese have a list of clergy where the [Independent] Review Board has made a determination that the accusation is sustained?” Stang asked the Archbishop.

“We know which ones those are, yeah,” Cordinelone replied. “We have our own list.”

Asked why the Archdiocese has not published the list, Cordileone said that no one has given him a reason for doing so.

“The most important thing is that our young people are being protected and that those who abuse are kept out of ministry for doing that,” he added.

Jennifer Stein, an attorney with Jeff Anderson & Associates, which represents over 400 alleged survivors with claims in Northern California, the majority of whom are in the Bay Area, was listening.

“This is an ongoing and recurring theme that is self-serving to the Archdiocese,” Stein said. “It puts children and the public in great peril by keeping that information secret.”

In September 2022, SNAP published its own list of 312 priests who have been publicly accused of abuse and were associated at one point or another with the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Nguyen’s name is not included on the list as the M.S. lawsuit was filed two months after publication. Ghiorso’s name, however, is.

In October 2021, parishioners of both churches where Ghiorso currently works were notified via a letter that he had been named in filed claims and would be temporarily restricted from exercising public ministry while an investigation was conducted.

The announcement came nearly a year after a lawsuit was filed in Alameda Superior Court by two men alleging they had been sexually abused while they were living at St. Vincent’s School for Boys, a residential program for disadvantaged boys in San Rafael.

In court records from the lawsuit, plaintiff Gary Johnson alleges that he and other boys from St. Vincent’s were molested by priests at a summer camp in Sonoma County for several years in the early 1980s.

The lawsuit alleges several priests began showing up at St. Vincent’s weekly to take the boys off-campus to Camp Armstrong, where they were given alcohol and molested or forced to engage in sex acts with one another, according to court records.

A newspaper clipping with a photo of a priest smiling while talking to a person facing him.
Father David Ghiorso, who faces multiple allegations of sexual abuse of young boys at St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael and a Sonoma County summer camp in the 1980s and 1990s, was profiled in the San Francisco Examiner on Oct. 23, 1994.

“When not participating, perpetrator defendants would also watch the boys abuse one another and would masturbate as they watched,” the complaint reads.

After reporting the abuse to an athletic coach at the school, who notified the school’s front office, Johnson was removed from St. Vincent’s and placed in a foster home, according to the complaint.

A second plaintiff in the same lawsuit alleges a priest abused him for a year, shortly after he arrived at St. Vincent’s in 1989 at the age of 9 and became an altar boy. Marcus Raymond Hill alleges that on one occasion, when he and other boys were invited to the rectory for doughnuts after mass, he was asked to stay longer, given wine and forced to masturbate the priest.

On three other occasions, the complaint states the priest allegedly plied Hill with wine and anally penetrated and raped him.

Ghiorso, who is not named in the lawsuit, is identified as the alleged perpetrator in the case on a matrix filed in Alameda Superior Court. The matrix is a chart that displays data from hundreds of Northern California clergy sex abuse cases filed under AB 218, including case numbers, attorney names, alleged perpetrator names, dates of alleged abuse and other information.

A person familiar with the case confirmed to KQED that Ghiorso is an alleged perpetrator in the lawsuit. NBC Bay Area previously reported the allegations.

Ghiorso was ordained in 1981 and worked as a pastor at Our Lady of Loretto Church in Novato through 1985, according to the Official Catholic Directory. From 1986-1990, he was the associate director of St. Vincent’s. Ghiorso went on to fill leadership roles with the Catholic Youth Organization and CYO Archbishop McGucken Youth Retreat and Conference Center, the location of Camp Armstrong, records show.

Ghiorso returned to the ministry in December 2021 following his temporary leave, according to Marlow. Four months later, court records show, he was accused in a new lawsuit of ongoing abuse of another altar boy at St. Vincent’s.

From around 1988 through 1991, an unnamed plaintiff alleges, he was “continuously anally raped and sexually assaulted” by Ghiorso when he was 10-13 years old. The plaintiff alleges Ghiorso began sexually abusing him in an area of the church that altar boys used to change. The abuse escalated to mutual oral sex and penetration in the church and at Ghiorso’s office, according to court records.

Several times, the plaintiff attempted to run away from St. Vincent’s and was heavily medicated by staff at the facility in an attempt to control his behavioral outbursts, the complaint reads.

The plaintiff first reported the alleged abuse to a private investigator hired by the Archdiocese, who contacted him in late 2021, according to the complaint. The investigator had “been previously told by one of the plaintiff’s classmates that the plaintiff may have been one of Father Ghiorso’s many victims,” the document reads.

“It was not until the plaintiff was contacted by the investigator that his memories of what Father Ghiorso did to him as a child resurfaced,” according to the document.

Ghiorso and his attorney did not respond to KQED’s multiple requests for comment.

When asked if Ghiorso was removed from ministry a second time pending an investigation into the new claim, Marlow declined to specify and instead restated that the Archdiocese’s procedures were followed in each case.

“There are good reasons why Fr. Ghiorso is a priest in good standing with faculties to serve in the Archdiocese of San Francisco,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!