The Diocese of San Bernardino County on Monday released a list of 34 priests who have been accused of sexually abusing children since the diocese formed in 1978.
Six of the named priests — Edward Ball, Gustavo Benson, Anthony Rodrigue, Alex Castillo, Jesus Dominguez and Ponciano Ramos.— were convicted for their crimes.
The most recent allegation was against a priest who hosted a retreat at Our Lady of Solitude Parish in Palm Springs in 2014, but did not have permission, or “faculties,” at the time to minister at any parish within the diocese. Additionally, the diocese had no knowledge that the priest, who ministered at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Upland from 1997 to 2000, was hosting the retreat.
In May 2014, a boy reported that the priest, who is not being named because he was not convicted of any crimes, made verbal “advances toward him” when the priest drove him from Upland to the retreat in Palm Springs, diocesan spokesman John Andrews said. The diocese reported the allegation to Child Protective Services.
Honest and accountable[hhmc]
In a video posted on the diocesan website and YouTube on Monday, Bishop Gerald Barnes said the church “finds itself confronting the past and present realities of the clergy sexual abuse crisis.”
“In this difficult time I wanted to be open, honest and accountable to the Catholic faithful, and to all people of good will,” Barnes said in his message to all diocese parishioners.
“I again offer my apologies and my deepest regrets to those who were victimized by the men on this list, and to all the faithful of the diocese who have been scandalized by this shameful chapter in our churchs history.”
The local disclosure was prompted by a Pennsylvania grand jury report released last month indicating more than 300 priests had molested at least 1,000 children over a 70-year period, and that there were likely thousands more victims. The 18-month investigation covered six of the states dioceses.
Fourteen of the 34 priests included on the Diocese of San Bernardinos list are dead. Priests accused of sexual abuse who ministered in San Bernardino and Riverside county parishes prior to 1978 will be included on the Diocese of San Diegos list of accused priests. The Diocese of San Diego represented parishes in San Bernardino and Riverside counties before the Diocese of San Bernardino formed in 1978.
The Diocese of San Bernardino has 92 parishes, with 1.7 million parishioners, in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Throughout its history, roughly 1,900 priests have served within the diocese, Andrews said.
“Apologies at this point can seem hollow, and I acknowledge that, because I cant imagine how painful this has been in the lives of many victims and their families. Still, I do want to state my sincere apology for our offenses and failures,” Barnes said in his video message.
The bishop said he encourages anyone who has been sexually abused by a priest — or who knows someone abused by a priest — to come forward and report it.
The list represents a “good-faith effort” by the diocese to disclose the names of all priests with “credible allegations,” and if any additional names surface in the future, they will be added to the list, according to the diocese.
Accused and convicted priests[hhmc]
Among priests accused and/or convicted of sexual abuse within the Diocese of San Bernardino are Gustavo Benson, formerly of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Barstow. He was accused of molesting two teenage boys at his home and giving two other boys beer and wine coolers at a cabin he owned. He pleaded guilty in 1987 to molesting a 13-year-old boy at his home and was sentenced to probation.
Benson also ministered at three other diocese parishes — Our Lady of Guadalupe Church from September 1977 to July 1978, San Salvador Church in Colton in July 1978, and at Immaculate Conception Church, also in Colton, from October 1983 to January 1985.
The Rev. Edward Ball, a former priest at Our Lady of Fatima Church and Our Lady of the Assumption Church, both in San Bernardino, was convicted twice in a decade for molesting boys at parishes where he ministered.
In 1992, Ball pleaded guilty to molesting three boys in the 1970s, two of whom were altar boys at Our Lady of Fatima Church in San Bernardino, where he was a priest. He served nine months in county jail.
In 1999, Ball was convicted again, this time for molesting two altar boys, who were brothers, at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in San Bernardino, from about 1979 to 1986. Per a plea agreement, Ball pleaded no contest to 31 felony counts and was sentenced to three years in prison.
The two brothers sued the church, and in 2003 received a $4.2 million settlement from the Diocese of San Bernardino and Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Aurora, Illinois, where Ball was ordained. The Diocese of San Bernardino and Missionaries of the Sacred Heart each agreed to pay $2.1 million.
In 2002, amid the Boston Globes expose on sexual abuse within the Boston Archdiocese, the Diocese of San Bernardino released to the San Bernardino Police Department a list of 20 priests who had been accused of sexual abuse dating back to 1957, before the diocese was formed when Inland Empire parishes and parishioners were represented by the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego.
Also in 2002, amid the sex abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church following the Boston Globes expose, it was learned that the Rev. Paul Shanley, an accused priest from the Boston Archdiocese, had been transferred in 1990 to St. Anne Catholic Church in San Bernardino, where he worked as a supply priest until 1993. The church has since merged with two other parishes and now goes by the name Our Lady of Hope.
At the time of Shanleys transfer, the Boston Archdiocese did not inform the Diocese of San Bernardino about Shanleys history of alleged sexual abuse, and maintained he was a “priest in good standing.” Shanley was subsequently convicted of molesting a boy in Boston in the 1980s and served 12 years in prison before he was released from custody last year.
In 2003, a Big Bear Lake man came forward accusing Shanley of molesting him in Big Bear Lake and Palm Springs in 1990, when he was 17 years old. But in May and June of 2003, San Bernardino and Riverside county prosecutors, respectively, announced they would not be filing charges against Shanley, citing insufficient evidence.
Amid the 2002 Catholic church sex abuse scandal, the Diocese of San Bernardino implemented sweeping reforms, including a policy mandating that any report of sexual abuse or misconduct by a priest be reported to police within 24 hours. It also formed its Office of Child and Youth Protection, which oversees enforcement of its policies, fields complaints and investigates allegations of sexual abuse.
Additionally, the office provides training to its ministry, at all diocesan parishes and schools, on how to recognize the signs of sexual abuse and grooming behaviors by priests.
The Diocese of Orange serving, about 1.6 million Catholics in 62 Orange County parishes, released a list in 2004 of priests removed from the ministry amid credible allegations of sexual abuse, diocese spokesman Hank Evers said.
The list was updated in 2016 and currently includes 14 names. An independent oversight review board is attempting to determine if more names need to be added, Evers added.
“Our interest is in being transparent,” he said. “We take this very seriously.”
As part of 2007 settlement of $660 million to more than 500 victims, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has released about 12,000 pages of documents detailing allegations of molestation against children, some going back decades.
The archdiocese released a statement Monday saying it “is undergoing a process to publish on the Archdiocesan website the names of priests that were found to have abused minors since the last update in 2008.”
The Diocese of San Diego has maintained a list of its accused and/or convicted priests since 2007, and has the list posted on its website. The diocese regularly updates the list, which includes allegations against priests, some who served at parishes in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, dating back to the 1940s.
The diocese on Monday could not immediately provide information regarding how many of the priests on its list have been criminally convicted.
“The majority of names released didnt face criminal charges because of the statute of limitations,” Kevin C. Eckery, spokesman for the diocese, said Monday.
Of the 34 priests on the San Bernardino diocesan list, 14 are listed as having been permanently banned by the diocese, and five as having been “removed from the priesthood.” Among the five removed from the priesthood are Shanley, Benson and Castillo, who were all convicted for sexually abusing boys.
Regarding the possibility of banned priests seeking ministerial work and faculties at other dioceses, Andrews said it is incumbent upon other dioceses to check a priests background and make sure he does not have a history as an abuser.
“That said, there are a few cases on this list where we took the step of notifying another diocese that a priest we knew had abused was attempting to minister there,” said Andrews, adding that Benson was one of them.
Barnes, in his video message on Monday, said, “We will always bear the mark of this scandal.
“At the same time,” he said, “the Diocese of San Bernardino has worked hard to address this problem, and it has resulted in a drastic reduction of allegations of abuse in this century, as the list shows.”