Mass. priest gets probation after $100k theft charges

— A Massachusetts priest charged with stealing more than $100,000 reached an agreement with prosecutors in September, admitting in court that enough evidence existed to convict him of a lesser larceny charge than he had originally faced.

Fr. Tomasz Gorny.

By The Pillar

But while Fr. Tomaz Gorny was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay back $12,000, the Diocese of Springfield has declined to answer questions about the allegation that he lived with a female parish employee for almost 10 years.

And while the diocese told The Pillar that Gorny is facing a “canonical process,” the priest’s probation agreement indicated that he would petition for a voluntary laicization, leaving questions unanswered, both about Gorny’s unusual history in the Springfield diocese, and about his future.

While Gorny was charged last year with stealing more than $100,000 from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, the priest made in September a plea agreement, admitting in court that the prosecutor’s evidence could convict him of a lesser larceny charge.

According to court records obtained by The Pillar, Gorny was ordered to pay $12,000 dollars in restitution to the Springfield diocese, and was placed under probation until September 2025.

The priest’s Massachusetts probation order listed “voluntary laicization” as a condition of his probation, suggesting that the priest had assured prosecutors he would seek to be laicized.

But it is not clear whether the priest is actually petitioning for voluntary laicization, or is instead facing a canonical penal process.

Court records indicate that in 2013 — three years after he was ordained — Gorny moved from the parish rectory where he was assigned into the home of a parish employee.

The priest reportedly lived at the woman’s home from 2013 until late 2022, when the diocese required him to move into a rectory amid an investigation into financial misconduct.

According to court records, the woman told police last year that Gorny became “very comfortable living at the house, and soon began to act like the house was his.”

“This caused issues with her two daughters, who were uncomfortable with Gorny living at the house,” a police affidavit alleged.

The woman told The Pillar in September that she was “not speaking publicly” on the allegations against Gorny.

The Pillar asked the Springfield diocese Monday whether the diocese had had reason to suspect that Fr. Gorny was not living in his parish rectories during the nine years he allegedly lived in the woman’s home, and whether the priest was properly supervised by diocesan officials.

The Pillar also asked whether Gorny’s living situation violated the safe environment policies of the diocese, and if he would face any canonical penal process, either for the canonical crime of concubinage, or for larceny.

But the Springfield diocese said Tuesday it could not answer any questions because of an active but unspecified “canonical process” pertaining to Gorny.

Canon law itself does not prohibit a diocese from providing public information during the course of canonical penal or administrative processes. In 2020, Springfield’s Bishop William Byrne said he would prioritize “transparency” in diocesan handling of clerical misconduct cases.

Transparency and communication are demanded of us, and this will be my priority,” the bishop said.

According to court records obtained by The Pillar, the priest opened between 2019 and 2022 several credit cards on behalf of the Diocese of Springfield and his parish, running up a balance of $99,452 on four accounts.

Gorny also reimbursed himself more than $25,000 for unauthorized or excessive expenses, a police affidavit indicates, including more than $1,300 in monthly food costs during 2022.

The priest allegedly instructed parish employees to give him cash from the parish offertory collection, which he reportedly spent on clothing, wine, and video games. And according to a police affidavit, the priest also fired one parish employee — whom he referred to for a period of time as “Mom” — after she raised concerns about questionable purchases at the parish.

Forensic accountant Robert Warren, a professor at Radford University and a retired IRS investigator, has researched extensively financial crime among clerics.

He told The Pillar that it is unsurprising that Gorny received a relatively light sentence in Massachusetts.

Warren noted a possible trend in financial crimes cases related to priests.

He said he had observed several recent criminal cases in which priests accused of stealing significant amounts of money received no jail time, and were in some cases required to pay back only a fraction of what they’d stolen from parishes and dioceses.

The researcher said that across the country, neither criminal prosecutors nor diocesan bishops seem eager to see priests face trial for financial crimes.

“Prosecutors appear reluctant to take these cases to trial because Catholic priests can muddy the issue of what they can buy or not buy by citing canon law, which is confusing to juries,” Warren said.

Those prosecutors have “limited resources, and are reluctant to take cases to trial which have a low ‘return on investigation,’ which means that charges may not result in enough jail time to justify the extra effort to go to trial,” he added.

Bishops, he said, “don’t want to be punitive with offending priests because there are so few priests. Assuming the public scandal isn’t too great, and no sexual misconduct was involved — and sometimes even if there was — bishops are keen on welcoming back the offending priest because Masses still need to be celebrated, babies still need to be baptized, and marriages still need officiating,” he said.

In his experience, Warren said, “what the bishop wants is for the insurance company to pay the claim — thus the need for a police investigation — and for the priest to pay the remainder of the stolen money.”

Warren cited the case of Fr. Kevin Gray, a priest of the Hartford archdiocese, who, Warren said, “once stole a million dollars, abandoned his parish, took up residence with a much younger man, got caught by the police, went to [prison], was released early to go to treatment … and thereafter was returned to ministry as a hospice chaplain.”

He also mentioned Fr. John Regan, a priest of the Diocese of Joliet, who pled guilty in 2011 to stealing $300,000 from an Illinois parish, and was assigned to another Joliet parish the next year, while still on probation.

For his part, Gorny successfully petitioned a judge this week to release his passport, in order for the priest to take a 12-week trip to his native Poland. It is not clear how Gorny, who has already paid back his $12,000 obligation to the diocese, is presently supporting himself financially.

Complete Article HERE!

‘Undignified,’ ‘inhumane,’ ‘wicked’

— Sexual abuse survivors say they’re revictimized during civil process

John Cody’s former music teacher was convicted of abusing 10 students including Cody in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. In 2021, Cody launched a lawsuit against institutions he said were also accountable for not stopping the abuse of teens.

Lawsuits provide alternative recourse, but can retraumatize victims

By Julie Ireton

When John Cody decided to sue his former Ottawa high school teacher and the institutions that allegedly failed to stop his sexual abuse, the 60-year-old braced himself to face his perpetrator again.

But the treatment he said he received during mediation was worse.

At one point, Cody, diagnosed with a terminal illness, recalled the mediator relaying a haunting message from the opposing side that implied he wouldn’t live long enough to see a resolution.

“This was the most traumatizing thing I’ve ever experienced,” Cody told CBC in a recent interview from his Montreal apartment. “This was inhumane treatment, and I can’t level any reasonable or logical explanation.”

Cody is one of several abuse survivors across Canada who describe feeling revictimized through the civil process.

Their stories provide a rare glimpse into what can happen in civil litigation involving large institutions such as school boards, hospitals, scouting and religious organizations. These cases often don’t make it into the public record due to the confidentiality around settlements.

While lawyers representing defendants are bound by professional obligation to defend their clients’ interests, one Toronto lawyer says some of the interactions with survivors could use less bravado and aggression.

“I think that everyone involved in the system needs education or should have ongoing education around this, including judges, mediators as well as lawyers,” said Carole Jenkins, who often represents parties being sued.

John Cody and other survivors and supporters gather outside the Ottawa courthouse on March 1, 2019 after the second conviction of former Bell High School teacher, Bob Clarke.
Survivors and supporters gather outside the Ottawa Courthouse on March 1, 2019, after the second conviction of former Bell High School teacher Bob Clarke.

‘I would be dead’

Cody’s former teacher Bob Clarke was sentenced to prison for abusing Cody and nine other boys at Ottawa high schools in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He has since been released.

In 2021, six survivors — all in midlife — launched lawsuits against Clarke, his former wife, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) and the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre where the teacher had been treated, alleging negligence and other wrongdoing.

For several years, Cody, a songwriter and musician, has suffered from cancer and a degenerative neurological disease. His case went to mediation this summer.

What happened next, Cody said, was shocking and crossed an ethical line.

“Opposing counsel said they were willing to fail the mediation because I would be dead before we got a court date, and they wouldn’t have to pay out,” Cody said, referring to what the mediator told him.

“To reduce me down to nothing more than a medical file that will expire before they have to pay out to someone as sick as me is beyond reprehensible.”

Featured VideoJohn Cody is one of several abuse survivors across Canada who describe feeling revictimized through the civil process. During mediation, Cody said he had to deal with ‘shocking’ and ‘cruel’ comments allegedly said by the opposing counsel, and said it was a traumatic experience. Lawyers for the OCDSB, who Cody was suing, said their client would not violate the confidential nature of mediation by discussing Cody’s case, but added those comments “would not be made to any claimant.”

Ottawa-based lawyer Colin Dubeau, who represents the OCDSB, said in an email to CBC that his client would not violate the confidential nature of mediation by discussing Cody’s case.

However, he said school board representatives have never intentionally failed at mediation to “exact a more favourable settlement.”

“Comments, as you have outlined … have not and would not be made to any claimant, as doing so would run contrary to the principles of fairness, respect, and dignity with which the OCDSB and its legal counsel handle all such claims,” Dubeau wrote.

Cody’s case was settled in July. Details of the settlement are not public.

Four of the six lawsuits are pending, and both the school board and The Royal deny vicarious liability for what happened to the plaintiffs.

Rosemary Anderson was 27 years old when she was abused by a priest at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Kamloops. This staff photo was taken when she began teaching at the parish's school in 1976.
Rosemary Anderson was 27 when she was abused by a priest at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Kamloops, B.C. This staff photo was taken when she began teaching at the parish’s school in 1976.

‘Undignified,’ ‘inhumane,’ ‘wicked’

Civil cases launched by sexual abuse victims can be more wide-raging in scope than criminal charges because they can attempt to assign blame to institutions for allowing or enabling abuse, and hold them accountable for historical wrongs.

Litigation against the Catholic Church for sexual abuse, for example, has resulted in millions of dollars in payouts across Canada. A precise amount is impossible given the high number of confidential out-of-court settlements.

But several victims who have embarked on such a journey say the same civil court system can also be used to retraumatize them.

“I would describe it as undignified. I would describe it as inhumane. I would describe it as being either morally compromised or wicked,” said Patrick, referring to his experience with lawyers representing the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall.

CBC has agreed not to reveal Patrick’s full name because he was a 12-year-old altar boy when he was sexually assaulted by two priests.

One of his alleged abusers was convicted of sex crimes against other boys, but a second member never faced charges. Both men are now dead.

“During discovery, the church’s lawyers decided to take it upon themselves to ask me, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, if I enjoyed the experience of being abused sexually by members of the clergy,” said Patrick.

According to court transcripts, the lawyer repeatedly asked Patrick if his body was aroused.

“They asked the question to signal to me that if you don’t like this question, you’re not going to like a lot of things that are about to happen,” he added.

The lead lawyer for the church issued a statement on Monday, explaining the intent of that line of questioning.

“I understand the plaintiff’s discomfort,” wrote Charles Gibson. “The question was a fact finding one and in no way was it meant to ask the plaintiff if he enjoyed the devastating impact of a sexual abuse.”

Rosemary Anderson, left, stands outside the Vancouver law courts with her lawyer, Sandra Kovacs, in March 2020 at the conclusion of the civil trial over her abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest.
Anderson, left, stands outside the Vancouver Law Courts with her lawyer Sandra Kovacs in March 2020, at the conclusion of the civil trial over her abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest.

Adversarial system

Seven years after filing his lawsuit, Patrick’s case was settled after mandatory mediation, just weeks before it was set to go to trial. The terms of the settlement are not public.

“The system is not broken. The system is working the way it was designed to work,” Patrick said in an interview with CBC. “We need to ask ourselves if we’re OK with that.”

“I think we have a lot of work to do,” said Sandy Kovacs, a civil litigator who represents plaintiffs.

“I think an adversarial system doesn’t actually achieve what we’re trying to achieve, which is the truth and accountability, so that we can actually address this harm in our society.”

Kovacs has come up against institutional lawyers, including those representing Catholic Church defendants for years.

She points to questions a lawyer once asked her client, Rosemary Anderson, who was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a Kamloops, B.C., priest in the 1970s.

“She was exploited by a priest and opposing counsel asked her if she was jealous when she found out there were others,” said Kovacs, referring to other victims.

Anderson calls the defence lawyer’s assertion “sick.”

“He was allowed to get away with that,” she said.

Anderson said the opposing lawyer also belittled her, patronized her and repeated factual errors in an attempt to discredit her.

John Cody, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, says the recent civil court process he went through retraumatized him.
Cody and his cat Rootbeer sit on the hospital bed in his Montreal apartment. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Cody says the recent civil court process he went through retraumatized him.

No apology from defendants

In the cases launched by Cody, Patrick and Anderson, each plaintiff asked for apologies and accountability, not just money.

All three have confirmed to CBC that their non-financial demands were not met.

“The civil system does not allow for anything other than financial compensation,” said Anderson. “The church didn’t apologize, in fact they worked very, very hard at defending themselves and trying to maintain their own honour.”

Anderson believes all lawyers dealing with sexual assault cases should be required to take sensitivity training.

Defence lawyer Carole Jenkins says these cases are rarely straightforward and often go beyond whether the alleged abuse took place.

“I owe a duty to my client and I advocate in their interest,” said Jenkins. “And sometimes, no matter how respectfully or kindly I ask a question, it’s likely to be traumatizing for the plaintiff.”

But Jenkins believes there are better ways to approach victims on the other side of the table.

Lawyer advocates ‘trauma-informed’ approach

In 2020, Myrna McCallum launched a podcast dedicated to addressing this very issue.

McCallum, who has worked as a defence lawyer, prosecutor and adjudicator, says it was her experience in the foster care and residential school system in northern Saskatchewan that drew her toward a career in law — and now, proselytizing a “trauma-informed” approach.

Métis lawyer Myrna McCallum has started a podcast to help lawyers manage trauma in their profession.
Vancouver lawyer Myrna McCallum hosts a podcast called The Trauma Informed Lawyer. She’s organizing a conference in April called Justice as Trauma.

“Throughout law school and the bar course, never once did we talk about people, did we talk about trauma, did we talk about empathy, humanity,” said McCallum.

“We’re not taught anything beyond making your best possible argument at all costs. [It] doesn’t matter if you’re crumpling and collapsing in the witness box.”

Her aim is to educate lawyers, judges and police officers about “how to bring emotional intelligence to their practice.”

“I do think it can be fixed,” said McCallum, who is currently organizing a conference called Justice as Trauma, set to take place next spring.

“Do we, like physicians, have a duty to do no further harm to people? I think we should. I think we do,” she added.

A new law passed in 2021 requires new federally appointed judges to agree to training on sexual assault and systemic racism before they’re appointed to the bench.

Cody says he’s speaking out because he wants the system — and the people who operate in it — to change.

“Part of my end of life bucket list as it were, was just to get all of this as much behind me as possible and get down to the business of being at peace,” said Cody.

“I just didn’t think they’d be so cruel about it,” he said. “It felt like kicking someone when they’re down.”

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!

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.

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