Catholic Parishes Disproportionately Closed in Poor, Black and Latino Neighborhoods

The Rev. Athanasius Abanulo celebrates Mass at Holy Family Catholic Church in Lanett, Ala., on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. Originally from Nigeria, Abanulo is one of numerous international clergy helping ease a U.S. priest shortage by serving in Catholic dioceses across the country.

By Aleja Hertzler-McCain

While the number of U.S. Catholics is increasing, the total number of Catholic parishes nationwide declined 9% between 1970 and 2020, according to a new report by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

In 10 of the 11 dioceses studied, those closures are disproportionately happening in Black and Latino neighborhoods and neighborhoods with higher poverty and unemployment.

The total number of American Catholics increased by 46% in the half-century before 2020, though the study’s researchers provided the context that the overall population increased 65% in those same years, meaning Catholics are a smaller proportion of the population.

The total number of priests, meanwhile, declined by 40%. The shortage of priests has played a significant role in the decisions to close parishes. Bishops announcing parish closures or consolidation repeatedly cite fewer and aging priests and low Mass attendance in decisions that typically receive pushback from their flocks.

Religious orders, like the Jesuits, have also announced plans to pull out of parish ministry because of few priests, ending longtime relationships with local parishes.

FutureChurch, a Catholic nonprofit that advocates for access to the Eucharist and reforms to the church, including married priests, commissioned the 759-page CARA report.

Parish size has grown by 60% since 1970, according to the report.

The CARA report notes that sacraments, including baptisms, Catholic marriages and Catholic funerals, have all declined. A deacon can also perform these sacraments, but there are fewer deacons than priests in the U.S.

Between 1970 and 2020, baptisms declined 57%, Catholic marriages declined 78%, and Catholic funerals declined 14%.

The report studied 11 dioceses: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archdiocese of Chicago, Archdiocese of Detroit, Archdiocese of Miami, Archdiocese of New Orleans, Archdiocese of New York, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archdiocese of St. Louis, Diocese of Bridgeport, Diocese of Cleveland and Diocese of Memphis.

The dioceses were selected to fit FutureChurch’s research needs and are not a representative sample. Several large dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archdiocese of Atlanta, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and Archdiocese of Seattle are not among the dioceses studied.

But in the dioceses studied, the report showed a tendency to close or merge parishes in neighborhoods that were poorer or had higher percentages of Black people or Latinos.

While the average proportion of white residents was lower in neighborhoods where parishes closed and higher in neighborhoods where parishes were opened, “in all 11 dioceses, the average proportion of people below the poverty line, people unemployed, Blacks/African Americans, and Hispanics/Latinos was higher in those neighborhoods where parishes closed/were absorbed than in those neighborhoods were parishes opened/expanded,” the report concluded. (The sole exception was for Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods in the Archdiocese of Miami.)

Complete Article HERE!

For six years, UW has wrestled with whether to revoke the Ph.D. of one of the Northwest’s most infamous child molesters

— Advocates and victims argue the university should do more to hold O’Donnell accountable

The sunset is photographed from the roof of the Davenport Hotel parking structure in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, June 3, 2017. (Young Kwak)


In part, it was his position — as a priest and doctoral student — that convinced so many children and parents at Seattle’s St. Paul School and Catholic parish to trust Patrick O’Donnell.

He told them he was working on his graduate research when he recruited 60 seventh- and eighth-graders for a 1978 dissertation experiment “on the subject of trust.” And he told them he was working on “research” when he asked parents and teachers to pull students out of class.

In fact, the reason he was in Seattle in the first place was because the Spokane Diocese had sent him to get treatment for what one priest euphemistically called his “pediatrician complex.”

In the 1970s and early ’80s, as he was moved from parish to parish — in Spokane, Seattle, and the small eastern Washington town of Rosalia — he allegedly molested more than 65 children, court records show. He admitted abusing at least 30. Six victims were from St. Paul.

By 2002, O’Donnell had become known as one of the most infamous predator priests in the region. His actions helped drive the Spokane Diocese into bankruptcy. He was sued — settling for $5 million he didn’t have. He lost his psychology license, his role as a priest and his reputation.

But O’Donnell still has one honor left.

“He can put the letters Ph.D after his name, and that’s still a problem,” said Pomona College chemistry professor Dan O’Leary. “He’s in my world, higher education. I don’t think he deserves to be in this world.”

Back when O’Leary was an altar boy in Seattle, he had his own run-in with O’Donnell. Since 2018, O’Leary has been doggedly urging the University of Washington to take a radical step: revoking O’Donnell’s 1978 degree entirely.

Emails provided to InvestigateWest show that UW has seriously considered taking that step over the past six years. Numerous administrators, university investigators, the Title IX office and even the state attorney general’s office have weighed in. The university declined to make any staffers available for an interview with InvestigateWest, and InvestigateWest was unable to reach O’Donnell, now 81, for comment.

In a statement, however, the university said that while the actions were “heinous and reprehensible” and the efforts to seek justice “certainly understandable,” they were “unable to obtain evidence that in the course of his graduate work, Mr. O’Donnell met the standard for degree revocation.”

InvestigateWest, however, has uncovered additional evidence tying O’Donnell’s sexual abuse to his graduate work and calling the honesty of the work itself into question.

In a 2009 lawsuit against the Seattle Archdiocese, an attorney demonstrates how the Spokane Diocese transferred child molester Patrick O’Donnell to the Seattle region, where O’Donnell attended graduate school.

Degrees have been revoked before, but mostly for issues like plagiarism and data falsification. Revoking a degree for sexual assault would mean diving into a thorny issue that has divided academics for decades: Can you separate the research from the researcher?

Former American Psychiatric Association President Paul Appelbaum, an expert on ethics in medicine and psychiatry, said even the question of whether to use data from the experiments conducted in Nazi death camps doesn’t have a clear consensus among researchers. He’s uneasy about the idea of revoking O’Donnell’s degree, instead of just condemning his actions.

“Going back to erase the record of his Ph.D seems to raise more problems than it could conceivably address,” Appelbaum said.

Yet Mary Dispenza, part of the Seattle Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that even decades later, it “matters to a survivor” when an “institution finally stands up to crimes of any nature.”

“If the university has the right to do that, I say do it,” Dispenza said. “If it is a wrong act, you make it right. It doesn’t matter if it’s 50 years later.”


O’Leary wasn’t one of O’Donnell’s victims. But he thinks he almost was. O’Leary said he remembers lying on his back, in the winter of his eighth-grade year, at a university pool after O’Donnell offered to teach him how to swim. He will never forget the look on O’Donnell’s face as he floated in his arms.

“It was really clear to me that he was fantasizing,” O’Leary said.

The priest wanted to shower afterward, O’Leary recalls, but the altar boy declined to join him. These memories are nearly a half-century old, but he still finds them “chilling to the bone.”

“It’s like being in a car with Ted Bundy,” O’Leary said.

But he also knows that lawsuits are filled with depositions of boys who said they’d experienced far worse. There were boys who knew O’Donnell as a basketball coach, or track coach, or Boy Scout chaplain, or a family friend. There were boys he’d strip naked after basketball practice, boys he’d take out on his boat, boys he’d wrestle, grope, tell to keep quiet.

There was the boy O’Donnell would let drive if he’d sit on his lap. The boy who rolled the lowest number in a dice game in O’Donnell’s hot tub and had to run naked to the dock to do push-ups. And the boy who knew something was wrong one night at Spokane’s Bishop White Seminary, who tried to call his mom again and again but kept getting a busy signal until O’Donnell was on top of him, mauling him, kissing him, grinding against him, until the boy pleaded with him enough times to stop.

There were boys who grew up and confronted O’Donnell. In the courtroom. In the press. At the front door of the parish with a Bible in their shaking hands. In a suicide note.

The fact that O’Leary got away unharmed, while so many of O’Donnell’s victims didn’t, has stuck with him.

“I think there’s probably some survivor’s guilt,” O’Leary said. “You lived and other people perished.”

It’s part of what’s fueling his tenacity, driving him to keep hammering away on this issue for so many years. Whenever one UW administrator stopped responding to his emails, he’d simply reach out to another.

When he managed to get his hands on O’Donnell’s 1978 doctoral dissertation — sent to him in California by interlibrary loan — the thing that angered him the most was on the very last page: The University of Washington consent form, a permission slip to participate in the experiment that students and parents were asked to sign.

“That told me that O’Donnell understood that researching with human subjects has responsibility,” O’Leary said. “It’s clear that he was well-aware there are ethical obligations.”

The May 1978 experiment had focused on studying how trust develops between kids and adults. The recruits were asked about the prisoner’s dilemma, a famous two-person negotiation game: If both players are trustworthy and choose to cooperate, they both benefit — gaining a small amount of money. But if one decides to betray the other, the betrayer gets more money and the victim gets nothing.

Attorney Michael Pfau, who represented many of O’Donnell’s victims, said he’s never come across any victims who remember being a part of the experiment. But he cited O’Donnell’s doctoral dissertation, “Evoking Trustworthy Behavior of Children and Adults in A Prisoner’s Dilemma Game,” in multiple lawsuits as an example “of a pedophile using a number of means to gain access to children.”

To O’Leary, the topic was “tragically ironic.” In March 2018, as the #MeToo movement sparked hundreds of whistleblowers across the country to go public with allegations against rapists, O’Leary made his pitch in an email to the UW: If O’Donnell had “engaged in sexually abusive behavior under the pretext of conducting doctoral research” then surely, UW would “disavow itself from that research and question the validity of any degrees given in association” with it.

He knew it was going to be an uphill battle. While plenty of honorary degrees of serial predators such as Bill Cosby have been retracted, pulling a real degree for nonacademic reasons is very rare.

Dan O’Leary, chemistry professor at Pomona College in California, says that the University of Washington awarding a doctoral degree to Patrick O’Donnell, who preyed upon children while a grad student at the university, “is a history that needs to be corrected.”

There have been exceptions. In 1999, MIT revoked the diploma of a former fraternity pledge trainer for providing a freshman with the alcohol that killed him.  In 2000, a federal court found that University of Virginia did have the right to revoke a graduate’s degree for embezzling funds from a student club, but allowed the student to sue on due process grounds. And while Columbia University officials revoked the degree of a journalism student accused of sexual assault in 2017, they restored it three years later as part of a lawsuit settlement. But almost all of these cases involved recent graduates.

But Applebaum, the ethics expert, said he’s uneasy about the notion of stripping away someone’s degree for anything but academic reasons.

“Whenever someone is convicted of a felony, does that mean we go back and take away their graduate degrees or their undergraduate degrees or their high school diplomas?” he asked. “Where does this end?”

But when O’Leary reached out to UW in 2018, they were coming off of multiple years of headlines about a star university researcher accused repeatedly of sexual harassment.

In emails provided to InvestigateWest, university officials initially seemed supportive of revoking O’Donnell’s degree. Martin Howell, the assistant dean for academic and student affairs in the College of Education at UW, told O’Leary that the “mission and values” of the university were driving him and other administrators to push O’Leary’s proposal forward.

Since the 1950s, UW faculty had the power to recommend that the Board of Regents revoke a degree retroactively — if they could prove it was granted based on “fraud and deceit.”

The fundamental question, Howell wrote in a 2019 email, was whether, if the school knew about O’Donnell’s conduct at the time, they would have refused to grant him the doctorate. At first, Howell said, they anticipated being able to rely on “non-academic misconduct that would have violated the UW Student Conduct Code in place at that time.”

But after a conversation with the state attorney general’s office, the university concluded it would be more difficult than they had suspected: To take away his degree they needed proof of fraud and deceit connected to his actual academic work.

The best evidence for that had come from Jim Biteman, one of O’Donnell’s victims at St. Paul. Biteman was never a part of O’Donnell’s 1978 “Prisoner’s Dilemma” experiment. But the year before, he recounted in a deposition, O’Donnell repeatedly pulled him out of class, claiming “he was going to ask me questions regarding research for his university studies.”

The priest would ask the boy to stand in front of the cafeteria window — his back to O’Donnell — and imagine himself naked and describe what he saw. And then O’Donnell would ask Biteman to imagine another boy naked with him, touching him, and ask how the thought made the eighth-grader feel.

“He would always say, ‘Don’t tell anybody about this conversation. This is part of my research. I don’t want you to spoil it, because I have to talk to some other boys,’” Biteman said in the deposition. “I know for a fact that he pulled other boys down there and did the same routine, same questions because I have spoken with others that have gone through it.”

Later, O’Donnell invited Biteman on trips on his boat up at a lake — as he did with so many other kids — and molested him.

While Biteman did not respond to an interview request from InvestigateWest, in a 2019 email he stressed to O’Leary that the evidence clearly showed O’Donnell had used his role as a graduate student to abuse underage boys.

“If the UW chooses to ignore the facts and requires ‘proof’ that directly ties his research to the abuse,” Biteman wrote, “then it appears they are not interested in pursuing what is right and are taking the easy way out.”

He hoped O’Leary could get traction on his efforts to convince UW to revoke O’Donnell’s degree.

“Anything that can be done to discredit this guy, who is currently living out his life … with little if any payment or accountability for his crimes, is welcome,” Biteman wrote.


Finally, last June — more than five years after O’Leary first raised the issue with the university — he was told the investigation had come to a halt.

The trouble with Biteman’s account, the university explained in a letter to O’Leary, was that they didn’t have any evidence O’Donnell was actually conducting doctoral research when he was victimizing the eighth-grade boy.

If O’Donnell was lying to Biteman, if his “research” didn’t have anything to do with his studies and he was just molesting them, then his degree was safe.

On its face, that may seem perverse. But Appelbaum, the ethics expert, argues that it makes sense. A university degree shouldn’t be read as a moral badge of character, he said; it’s proof of the completion of academic standards.

“If a man, however evil he was a person and however many people he may have harmed, fulfilled the requirements for a Ph.D, then he’s got a Ph.D,” Appelbaum said.

In UW’s emails to O’Leary, officials stressed they’d tried to find a clear connection to his dissertation.

While O’Donnell had written that 60 seventh- and eighth-graders had participated in the experiment at St. Paul, there was no record of who they were. The university tried to reach out to Biteman, but never heard back. The university even sent a letter to O’Donnell himself, to his home in Mount Vernon, but through an attorney, O’Donnell declined to talk.

But UW would not tell InvestigateWest whether they considered another major trove of information: court records.

During a 2004 deposition, O’Donnell testified that he did pull kids like Biteman out of class for purposes tied to UW academics — but didn’t indicate it had anything to do directly with his dissertation. Instead, he said, he was performing a “psychological test” on them.

His academic transcripts, indeed, show he was taking a class called “individual testing,” which focused on intelligence tests for children. But O’Donnell said the tests he was conducting involved a word-association game where the kids would have to react to words like “man,” “masturbation” and “intercourse,” though he claimed he didn’t particularly emphasize the sexually charged words over other words.

O’Leary sees it as evidence of “extensive human subjects violation during the courses” that O’Donnell had taken. Combined with Biteman’s testimony, it suggested that O’Donnell had been using these kinds of games to groom young boys and that this behavior was clearly intertwined with his academic work.

“When someone is a rule breaker, it’s worth going back and taking a close look at their doctoral research, and see whether there’s any rule-breaking there, too,” Appelbaum said.

Indeed, O’Donnell insisted that the only reason that he had landed on the “prisoner’s dilemma” dissertation topic was because “the ethics committee at the university wouldn’t let me do what I wanted to do” and he’d done similar research for his master’s program at Gonzaga University.

InvestigateWest found his published master’s thesis — “Eliciting Trustworthy Behavior in A Prisoner’s Dilemma Game” — in the Gonzaga library archives.

Vast sections of O’Donnell’s doctoral dissertation had lifted entire pages from his master’s thesis word for word, right down to using the same lengthy quotes from George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion,” about how the “difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated.”

Today, the UW warns doctoral students that plagiarism, even using “your own, previously published work” without citing it, could prevent them from getting a degree.

The prohibition against self-plagiarism can be hazy, Appelbaum said, but it becomes a problem “when it crosses the line from merely recapitulating the same idea or using the same phrase to extracting and reusing a larger body of words.”

Self-plagiarism, of course, is almost a comically minor sin compared to those committed against the more than 30 victims O’Donnell has confessed to molesting. But, crucially, it’s an academic one.

The revelation has re-invigorated O’Leary. Earlier this month, he was armed with a highlighter and a green pen, going line by line through a copy of O’Donnell’s dissertation, marking up just how many lines appeared verbatim in each of them. He even identified two small instances of plagiarizing other people’s work — nearly word-for-word quotes that were sourced in the Gonzaga thesis but unsourced in his dissertation.

“I’m confident it would raise eyebrows,” O’Leary said. “Anyone on a dissertation committee, if they knew that was happening, they would consider it fraud or deceit.”

Presented with this evidence by InvestigateWest, the UW said it remains open to new information but was “focused on the concerns regarding abuse of minors within the conduct of his university research, not plagiarism.” It declined to comment further.

But O’Leary sees an opportunity: O’Donnell had used the pretext of UW doctoral research to molest children as a grad student. Now, O’Leary argued, the university could use the shoddiness of his actual research as a pretext for removing the degree of a child molester.

“It does directly meet the usual standard for degree revocation,” O’Leary said. “Maybe the university is actually secretly hoping for a valid reason to do the right thing.”

Complete Article HERE!

Long Island diocese to end bankruptcy without sex abuse deal


A Catholic diocese in Long Island, New York has asked a judge to end its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, after failing to get support from about 530 sex abuse survivors on a proposed $200 million settlement of their claims against the diocese.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, which serves about 1.2 million Catholics in Nassau and Suffolk counties, said on Friday that its bankruptcy had “run its course” after abuse survivors “overwhelmingly” voted against the diocese’s offer.

“The Diocese sincerely hoped that its offer of $200 million—in addition to very substantial insurance assets—would be accepted by the creditors,” the diocese wrote in a motion to dismiss filed in U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan.

James Stang, an attorney representing abuse survivors in the bankruptcy, said that the diocese’s failure to reach a deal was “unprecedented.”

In other Catholic bankruptcies, abuse survivors were allowed to propose their own bankruptcy settlement instead of being offered a binary choice between the diocese’s plan or nothing, Stang said.

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in New York in October 2020, citing the cost of lawsuits filed by childhood victims of clergy sexual abuse. New York’s Child Victims Act, which took effect in August 2020, temporarily enabled victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits over decades-old crimes.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn is scheduled to hear the diocese’s request to dismiss its case on May 9.

Glenn warned last year that he would dismiss the case if settlement talks continued to stagnate, but he said he was not eager to be the first judge to kick a Catholic diocese out of bankruptcy.

Talks broke down in part over the diocese’s plan to protect all of its parishes and local affiliates from lawsuits as part of the bankruptcy settlement. Abuse survivors said those local organizations had not contributed enough money to the settlement to warrant the legal protections they would have received.

Stang said on Monday that a bankruptcy settlement could still be reached if the diocese makes its proposal more attractive to abuse survivors. Survivors might be more inclined to vote for a deal with better economics or non-monetary concessions, like an apology and pledge to protect children from abuse in the future.

“We think the parishes can afford to pay much more and still maintain their religious mission,” Stang said.

The diocese said that it had spent over $106 million on attorneys and other bankruptcy professionals since filing for Chapter 11, including $33 million to the attorneys representing abuse survivors.

If the bankruptcy is dismissed, abuse survivors would be free to continue their lawsuits against the diocese in New York state courts.

Richard Tollner, who chaired the official committee representing abuse survivors in the bankruptcy, said that the dismissal would send a strong message to other debtors who are “using bankruptcy to avoid accountability before state court juries.”

“If your plan does not have the support of the survivors’ creditors’ committee, your reorganization plan will fail,” Tollner said in a statement.

In re The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 20-12345.

For Rockville Centre: Corinne Ball and Todd Geremia of Jones Day

For the creditors committee: James Stang of Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones

Complete Article HERE!

He spent 17 years as a priest in exile.

— His final act: a scorching ‘farewell letter’ to the Catholic Church

Tim Stier poses in his condo at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek , Calif. on Saturday, July 9, 2022. Stier was defrocked in March by the diocese for reasons such as protesting the diocese’ cover-ups of sexual abuse, their treatment of women and LGBTQ practitioners.

By Rachel Swan

He spent 17 years as a priest in exile, railing against what he said were the misdeeds and cover-ups of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, until the Vatican finally cut him loose in March.

Months later, Tim Stier delivered his final salvo: a scorching “farewell letter” that condemned several bishops, criticized the Catholic clergy for retrograde attitudes toward gender equity and LGBTQ civil rights, and cited specific allegations of sexual abuse that Stier says the church ignored or tried to conceal.

His missive became a new flare-up for an institution grappling with public controversies over abortion and civil rights, and with the fallout from a painful history of abuse that has jolted parishes throughout the country.

“Dear No-Longer-Fellow Priests,” it began, “this will likely be my farewell letter to most of you, which may be glad tidings to those of you who did not enjoy hearing from me.”

In recent interviews with The Chronicle, Stier reflected on the blistering critique he wrote and distributed widely, an apogee to nearly two decades of protest, penned four months after his defrocking on March 19.

The ousted priest counts himself among a small community of early whistleblowers who have tried to persuade Catholic clergy to atone for past wrongs and to pull the church into modern times.

“If you speak out on these issues, you’re going to be crushed,” Stier said.

A spokesperson for the Oakland diocese did not respond to specific allegations in Stier’s letter, but sent a statement to The Chronicle about his ouster.

“We wish Mr. Stier all the best in this new chapter in his life,” the statement read. “The process by which the pope removes a man from the clerical state, which you reference as the ‘defrocking process,’ is extensive and thorough. Therefore, it can take considerable time.

“You’ll need to ask Mr. Stier why he made the decision to abandon his priestly vows and ministry many years ago.”

Pelosi vs. Cordileone

Tension between church leaders who wish to preserve rigid doctrine and parishioners who want a more open dialogue has been playing out in the largely liberal Bay Area. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who previously served as bishop in Oakland, recently denied communion to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, saying she must renounce her support of abortion rights.

Pelosi later received communion during a trip to the Vatican last month.

By standing up against the system, Stier speaks for a majority of Catholics who support LGBTQ rights and the ordination of women and denounce sexual abuse, said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, an organization that advocates for equal treatment of all of the faithful in the Catholic church.

Most of the nation’s 433 active and retired bishops follow the official teaching that gay and lesbian relationships are “objectively disordered,” and some have passed policies against the use of pronouns that don’t reflect the gender a person was assigned at birth, Duddy-Burke said.

She views Stier as a symbol at a moment of upheaval in the Catholic church — an outlier among diocesan priests, many of whom behave as “company men,” intent on ascending the hierarchy. Yet the positions Stier represents are “very valid and well within the Catholic mainstream,” Duddy-Burke said, even if the average parishioner or clergymember does not feel empowered to express them.

Over the years, Stier said, “I would get cards and letters from priests supporting what I was doing. I invited them to come (demonstrate) on Sunday mornings, but none of them were willing to risk that.”

He said a system committed to top-down authority, mandatory celibacy and the subordination of women’s voices may have to collapse before it can evolve. The church’s resistance to change may be its undoing, he said, “either through bankruptcies” from lawsuits “or disgrace.”

Stier has cast himself as an agitator from within, sustaining his Catholic faith even as he published op-ed pieces about the alleged hypocrisy of the church, or picketed outside Oakland’s cathedral on Sundays, with signs that demanded inclusion and structural reform.

“He’s been very consistent from the beginning about what his views were,” Stier’s friend, Margery Leonard, said.

Leonard, a retired teacher, met Stier when he served as pastor of Corpus Christi, her parish in Fremont, during the 1990s. Even then, he was outspoken, she said, delivering homilies that applied scripture to contemporary issues, such as homelessness or racial diversity, and trying to engage clergy in discussions about over-eating and alcoholism among priests.

“The clergy are very efficient at giving directions, but it’s just not a democratic group,” Leonard said.

Bishop Michael Barber

She became an ally of Stier during his two decades on the margins, after he became disillusioned with the church and refused a parish assignment from Bishop Allen Vigneron in 2005.

At the time, Stier said, he insisted that Vigneron publicly confront “three issues roiling the Church”: the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and bishops’ efforts to hide it; the refusal to ordain women and treat them equitably; and the cruel treatment of LGBTQ parishioners “based on an outdated theory of human sexuality.”

The diocese “didn’t know what to do with me,” Stier said. “They were hoping I’d come back. I was a well-respected, competent pastor.”

Bishop John Cummins
What began as a standoff became a protracted stalemate. From 2010 to 2021, Stier stood on the sidewalk during each Sunday mass, holding his signs and hoping that Bishop Michael Barber would emerge from the cathedral to speak with him. And during all that time, the bishop never did, he said.

He surmised that Barber was embarrassed by the public crusade, and by Stier’s demand for Barber to “hold accountable” retired Bishop John Cummins, who had ordained Stier in 1979, but who Stier later accused of abetting sexual abuse of minors by moving predatory priests from one parish to another.

Representatives of the Archdiocese of Detroit, where Vigneron now serves as archbishop, declined to comment, deferring to their counterparts in Oakland. Attorneys for Cummins did not return phone calls, and a spokesperson for the Oakland diocese declined to comment on the retired bishop’s behalf.

Stier cited several examples in his letter of priests who served during Cummins’ tenure and who the Oakland Diocese subsequently deemed “credibly accused of sexual abuse by a minor.” One of them, Stephen Kiesle, pleaded no contest to charges of lewd conduct in 1978, for allegedly tying up and molesting two boys at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Union City, where he was a priest and teacher.

Two years ago, one of Kiesle’s alleged victims sued him, the diocese and Cummins, claiming the retired bishop knew Kiesle was a danger to children but allowed him to work with them anyway. The suit is part of a coordinated action involving more than a hundred plaintiffs against various dioceses and other church entities, with the first case set to go to trial next year, said Kiesle’s lawyer, Mark Mittelman.

Stephen Kiesle
Attorneys for Cummins and Kiesle have denied all of the allegations, according to court filings.

Separately, Kiesle was arrested this year on charges of killing a pedestrian while allegedly driving drunk in a Walnut Creek retirement community. He was freed on $250,000 bail in April and the case is pending.

Stier succeeded Kiesle at Our Lady of the Rosary in 1979, the year he was ordained. At the time, parishioners informed him of Kiesle’s misconduct, he said, but he heard nothing from the pastor or the diocese.

“It was so secretive in those days,” he told The Chronicle, noting that, before 1979, he had no inkling that priests had used their position to victimize others.

In interviews, Stier pointed to two factors that motivated him to write the letter. The first, he said, was a desire for closure. Second, he wanted to leave a record “of what I learned during my 17 years of voluntary exile from active priesthood,” working with abuse survivors and other people he views as marginalized by the archdiocese.

Once he’d finished and signed the missive, he printed out copies and mailed them to 60 priests. Fifty-nine didn’t respond; one sent a short, polite acknowledgment.

This month the letter appeared on, a website and database that tracks alleged abuse by clergy.

The nonprofit Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, defended and praised Stier in a statement.

“It is ironic that a priest who showed integrity has been defrocked for taking a stand for what he believes is just,” the statement read, “while priests who molested children were hidden, paid and never forced to leave the church.”

Complete Article HERE!

Cleveland Catholic Diocese should release more names, child-abuse victims’ advocate groups say

Claudia Vercellotti, who heads the Ohio chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the Boston-based research organization, spoke on the sidewalk outside of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland.

By Jonathan Walsh

Release more names and more information. That was the call from victims advocates to the Catholic Church in Cleveland. The recent revelation of a former St. Ignatius priest being credibly accused of abusing children has sparked one organization’s deeper dive into priests who’ve served in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese.

Anne Barrett Doyle is the co-director of She stood in front of the Downtown cathedral today saying dozens of additional names of priests should be on the Cleveland Catholic Diocese credibly accused list. One of the names is a priest who we broke the story on last year.

“It’s hard to trust people,” said Tammie Mayle in tears just last year in a News 5 exclusive investigation. At the time, she had just filed a lawsuit saying while she was a child at the former orphanage called Parmadale, Father John Leahy abused her.

“(He) guided another child and myself to have sexual acts…in front of him and three or four other males,” she said in the interview.

“These are secrets that the diocese knows or should know,” said Barrett Doyle, who announced today that she has found 50 names, many of whom are on other dioceses’ lists across the country, that should be included on the Cleveland list. One of her names is Leahy.

“The case of Reverend John Leahy is a perfect example of the damage that (current diocese leader) Bishop Malesic is doing with his silence about abuse,” she told us.

Barrett Doyle said Bishop Edward Malesic is not doing enough to inform the community. She said in contrast, the Jesuits recently released information about Father Frank Canfield at St. Ignatius High School and the credible allegations against him, even providing a frequently asked questions section on its site.

She told us Cleveland deserves transparency. “I want this to be a place where kids are protected, where victims are honored and validated,” said Barrett Doyle.

Claudia Vercellotti, from the organization Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP, said there are up to 145 more priests who were in Cleveland that could be named.

“Give a full, unabridged accounting of all credibly accused clerics, volunteers, staff members,” said Vercellotti. “It’s not just the sexual predator. It’s those who knew or should have known and provided cover.”

We went straight to the diocese offices to get their side of the story. No representatives came out to answer our questions on camera.

“This is information that belongs to the victims, that belongs to the families of the victims, that belongs to the faithful of Cleveland,” said Barrett Doyle.

The faithful, like Mayle, said it’s not as simple as just forgetting about the abuse she endured.

“How often do you think of that?” we asked.

“My whole life,” Mayle responded.

The list of the 50 names released today can be found on the site

The Cleveland Catholic Diocese released this statement in response to today’s news conference:

“The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland is steadfastly committed to the protection and safety of children, as demonstrated in its robust policies regarding background checks, its education and training, its commitment to reporting all allegations of child sexual abuse to civil authorities, and by the fact that no cleric in the Diocese of Cleveland against whom a substantiated allegation has been made is permitted to ever again serve in ministry. 

The Diocese also makes public the names of any cleric who has been accused of child sexual abuse, regardless of when the alleged conduct took place or whether the accused is alive or deceased, provided the allegation is substantiated.

This list does not include non-diocesan clergy (clerics serving other dioceses) or clerics who belong to a religious order, only clerics of the Diocese of Cleveland. 

For more comprehensive information on how the Diocese of Cleveland reports and compiles these lists and to view the current list, please visit our website.

Complete Article HERE!