Diocese of Fresno ACCUSED PRIESTS

Like many other dioceses throughout the world, the Diocese of Fresno turned a blind eye to countless victims that attempted to report the sexual abuse they endured at the hands of priests and clergy members. Recently, victims have been able to seek justice for the abuse.

The Diocese of Fresno includes Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, and Tulare counties. Although the Diocese vowed in 2019 to release names of priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors, as of June 2021, it still had not released its list.

On August 10, 2021, the Los Angeles Times reported that after more than two years and “in the interest of further transparency, accountability and responding pastorally to victim survivors,” the Roman Catholic Diocese released the long-awaited list containing the names of over 60 clergy members credibly accused of child sexual abuse. The list includes the following names:

  • Henry Angelino (Decd.)
  • John Boyle (Decd.)
  • Gerald Chavez (Decd.)
  • James Collins (Decd.)
  • Fred Crowley (Decd.)
  • Robert Davis (Susp., laicization in progress)
  • Thomas Farrell (Decd.)
  • Benjamin S. Gabriel (Decd.)
  • Louis Garcia (Susp., current status unknown)
  • Robert Gamel (Ret.)
  • John J. Gaynor (Decd.)
  • Edward Haskins (Decd.)
  • Craig F. Harrison (Voluntary laicization)
  • Anthony Herdegen (Decd.)
  • Michael J. Mangan (Decd.)
  • Michael McDonald (Decd.)
  • Patrick J. McGrath (Decd.)
  • Paschal Merola (Decd.)
  • John Naldoza Nacauili (Decd.)
  • Joseph Pacheco (Decd.)
  • Thomas Purcell (Susp., current status unknown)
  • Eric V. Swearingen (Decd.)
  • Sauveur Tambourin (Decd.)
  • Jose Luis Vega Sanchez (Susp., living in Mexico presumably alive)
  • William Allison (Decd.)
  • Hermy Dave O. Ceniza (Current status unknown)
  • Jorge de Jesus Gomez Forunda (Returned to Guatemala, current status unknown)
  • Ramon Gomez (Current status unknown)
  • Ronald LaBerrera Villarreal (Current status unknown)
  • Kevin McCarthy (Decd.)
  • Walter Nicholson (Decd.)
  • John “Jack” S.J. Bradley (Current status unknown)
  • Felix Calonge (Current status unknown)
  • Francis X. Darmaddy (Decd.)
  • Jose Morelos (Living in Mexico, current status unknown)
  • Anthony Slane (Decd.)
  • Bernardine Solvyns (Current status unknown)
  • Samuel Cabot (Decd.)
  • James Vincentian Cairns (Current status unknown)
  • Antonio Camacho (Decd.)
  • Stuart B. Campbell (Decd.)
  • David (Laurian) Carriere (Decd.)
  • Mario Cimmarrusti (Decd.)
  • Gerald Chumik (Decd.)
  • Basil P. Congro (Current status unknown)
  • Daniel De Dominicis (Decd.)
  • Wilfred J. Diamond (Decd.)
  • Dennis Duffy (Rem. from ministry, current status unknown)
  • Don Flickinger (Ret.)
  • Harold J. Goschke (Decd.)
  • Gerald Hartz (Faculties rem.)
  • David Johnson (Laicized, current status unknown)
  • Stephen Kain (Rem. from ministry, living under restrictions)
  • Gregory Kareta (Decd.)
  • David La Pierre (Current status unknown)
  • Cornelius P. Leehan (Decd.)
  • Mark Liening (Decd.)
  • Jorge Lopez (Decd.)
  • Gilbert Meyer (Decd.)
  • William Paiz (Current status unknown)
  • Jose Sanchez (Current status unknown)
  • Raul N. Sanchez (Current status unknown)
  • Fidencio Silva (Current status unknown)
  • John S.J. Shephard (Decd.)
  • Ramon Varela (Decd.)
  • Robert Carroll Wheatley (Decd.)

A statement by Bishop Joseph V. Brennan, published on the Diocese of Fresno’s website, reads: “Some members of the family – priests, deacons, and religious in positions of trust and leadership – have behaved badly. That is putting it mildly. Let’s face it, acts of abuse upon the innocent and vulnerable are truly evil, plain and simple. The pain, suffering, betrayal, and loss of innocence felt by many victims lasts a lifetime.”

Bishop Brennan goes on to say the list “is meant to be part of an on-going process of healing for everyone,” and further explained that it’s a “living document” that he intends to update with new names as new information becomes available.

However, a review of the Diocese’s handling of its abusive priests showed that, like many other dioceses, the church handled its child sexual abuse problems by transferring pedophile priests from parish to parish and keeping its personnel files containing abuse allegations under tight secrecy. The Diocese also aimed to settle most of the lawsuits filed against its priests out of court, further keeping abuse issues hidden.

Critics of the Diocese charge that, despite laws requiring it to report allegations of sexual abuse, the Diocese continues to hide claims of abuse from the public. For example, in 2002, a former parishioner filed a lawsuit against the Diocese, alleging that former Priest Eric Swearingen molested him between 1989 and 1993 while Swearingen held an assignment at Our Lady of Bakersfield. The lawsuit went to trial in 2006, and the jury found that Swearingen sexually abused the victim. Nonetheless, the case ended in a mistrial because the jury failed to find the Diocese liable for Swearingen’s conduct.

The parties to the case later settled out of court, and the settlement amount remained confidential. The Church allowed Swearingen to stay a priest until 2019 when he was placed on leave after new allegations surfaced about the 2006 case. He died of brain cancer in January 2020 at age 58.

In March 2016, former Priest Robert E. Gamel pled no contest to possessing child pornography in a California state court, and the judge sentenced him to eleven months in jail and four years of probation, and he had to register as a sex offender.

Gamel served as head of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Los Banos from 2009 until 2014. The Church placed him on leave in 2014 when they caught Gamel with nude photographs of a boy who attended the Church on Gamel’s computer. Gamel ended his stint in jail after serving his child pornography sentence but faced charges again for possessing child pornography. While he was awaiting trial on the new charges in May 2017, another inmate in the jail attacked and beat him.

In another case involving priest sexual abuse, numerous men have recently come forward to allege that a beloved and popular priest, Monsignor Craig Harrison, repeatedly molested them throughout his assignment as pastor of St. Francis Church in Bakersfield. Harrison was known for taking in troubled teenage boys, mostly Latinos, and helping them. However, his accusers allege that, rather than supporting and nurturing them, he was systematically grooming them so he could molest them.

A lawsuit filed by Harrison’s victims against the Diocese contends that although they reported the abuse, the Diocese refused to take any action to stop it. Harrison denied the allegations and even filed a defamation lawsuit against the Church. The Church placed him on administrative leave in 2019. In February 2021, Harrison announced his resignation from the Catholic Church.

Many victims have yet to come forward against their abusers in the Diocese of Fresno. Studies show that victims often don’t come forward until later in life, which is why the previous statute of limitations was limiting victims’ access to justice. California recently passed a bill in 2019 extending its statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases and allowing a period to revive old claims previously barred under the previous time restrictions to file a civil lawsuit.

Our legal team at Herman Law has decades of experience fighting for child sexual abuse victims’ rights. We provide victims with a free consultation to help determine if they have a claim and the best next steps to seek justice. You may be entitled to financial compensation and to pursue claims against both the Diocese of Fresno and your abuser. Contact us today to learn about your legal rights and receive a free case evaluation.

Ordained: 1941
Status: Accused

Ordained for the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno. Died in 1987. Named as credibly accused by the Fresno diocese on its list in 8/21.

Ordained: 1954
Status: Sued
Per 12/03 news, a woman had filed suit alleging that when she was 17 and pregnant in the early 1960s, her family sent her to live with friends in Fresno. Suit says that Bradley, a priest at St. Agnes Mission, abused her for five months while she was pregnant. He is not indexed in Official Catholic Directory after 1970.
Ordained: 1963
Status: Accused
Bishop of Boise City ID 1989-98; Bishop of Orange CA 1998-2012. Retired. A man came forward in early 2007 to allege abuse by Baker in Bakersfield in 1965 when he was approximately 12 years old. The man produced copies of correspondence to and from the Fresno diocese in 7/97 about the alleged abuse. He also wrote to Cardinal Mahony in 2002. Brown admitted in a deposition in 9/07 that he had been accused and that the church had investigated. He denied the abuse. Retirement announced 9/12.
Status: Sued


Civil suit filed in 4/10 alleged Ceniza abused and stalked a youth while at St. Francis Church in Bakersfield around 1991. In 1993 his accuser called Bishop Steinbock, who met with him and promised Ceniza would no longer be a priest. Accuser later learned that Ceniza was living in the Philippines and still an active priest. The suit alleges fraud on part of Diocese.
Ordained: 1939
Status: Settled
A woman filed suit in 12/03 alleging abuse by Collins for five years in the early 1960s when she attended St. Mary’s Church in Buttonwillow. Collins also worked at churches in Avenal and Lemoore. The suit settled in 8/06 for $875K.
Ordained: 1947
Status: Settled
Named publicly as accused by Attorney Mitchell Garabedian in 5/21. Collins was the subject of a claim which settled in 2020 in the low six figures. Accused of sexually abusing a girl multiple times 1958-60, when she was about ages 8-10 and Collins was assigned to St. Mary’s in Buttonwillow, CA. Retired to Donegal, Ireland and died 10/13/77.
Ordained: 1997
Status: Accused
Assigned to St. Catherine’s in Dinuba when placed on leave in 5/19 during an investigation of allegations of the sexual abuse of minors. Diocese informed by law enforcement.
Ordained: 1968
Status: Sued
Accusation publicly in 6/19 of sexually abusing a 17- or 18-year-old girl in the mid-1980s at St. Joseph’s in Bakersfield. Suspended for a few months during investigation. Esquivel’s accuser said that he groped, open-mouth kissed and verbally abused her. She was working at the time as his secretary. SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) stated that three other women told them in recent years that Esquivel sexually abused them, two at age 16. Two of the alleged victims reportedly told another priest in around 1992, but no action. Suit filed in 1/20 by two of the women, each claiming abuse as teenagers by Esquivel. Remained in active ministry in 1/20.
Ordained: 1994
Status: Sued
From Guadalajara, Mexico. Ordained in Bolivia. Ministered and taught in Chile. Studied in Argentina and Australia. Taught in Peru, studied in Colombia. Arrived in the Fresno diocese from Mexico in 1999. Accused by a 16-year-old girl in 2002 of sexual assault 1/02-2/02. She was his office assistant at parishes in Tranquility and Hanford. Acquitted by jury 8/02 on three counts of forcible rape, three counts of sex with a minor and charge of making threats and intimidating a witness. Returned to active ministry. Case reopened in 2019 after new information deemed credible. Placed on leave in 2/19. HIs alleged victim filed suit against the diocese in 2/20 under the CA Child Victims Act.
Status: Sued


From the Philippines. Sued in 2003. Accused of abuse of a youth at St. Jude’s in Earlimart for two years in the mid-1970s. Not in parish assignment after 1980. Apparently retired in 1986.
Ordained: 1990
Status: Sentenced
Removed 8/15/14. Investigated by police for alleged internet-related sex crimes involving at least one teenage boy. Computers and hard drives seized from rectory of St. Joseph’s in Los Banos where he had worked since 2009. Police said parishioners were uncomfortable with Gamel’s behavior with young males, including rubbing the back of a sleeping teen, and hugging a youth in a single-person restroom. Pled no contest 3/11/16 to possessing child porn. Sentenced in 5/16 to 11 months in jail and 4 years probation. Ordered to register as a sex offender. Assignments included Christ the King and St. Joseph’s Mission in Oildale, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Bakersfield, St. Ann’s in Ridgecrest, St. Joseph’s in Boron and Our Lady of Lourdes in California City. Released from jail in 12/16. Arrested again 4/12/17 on child porn possession. Pled not guilty 5/17. Pled no contest 11/28/17, sentenced to 4 years in state prison. Released 4/13/19.
Ordained: 1963
Status: Convicted
Accused of abusing several developmentally disabled patients 5/79-8/80 at Porterville State Hospital where he was Chaplain. Civil litigation and criminal charges filed. Matters taken to California’s Court of Appeals. Sentenced to 6 years in 1983. Garcia was on sick leave per 1988 Catholic Directory. Listed on CA sex offender registry as of 5/15/11.
Ordained: 1987
Status: Accused
Monsignor. Sheriff’s Office and Police chaplain. Adopted 8 boys. Suspended 4/19; investigation of inappropriate touch of a boy, ages 14-16, decades prior in Firebaugh. Report to diocese 4/12; diocese told police three days later. Harrison denied claims. Bakersfield community responded with overwhelming support for Harrison. Two more men alleged in late 4/19 abuse as minors by Harrison. One of them had reported in 1998 and again in 2002 that Harrison abused him in Firebaugh in 1998. Unsubstantiated, per diocese in 2002. Case closed by Bakersfield police in 6/19. Fresno diocese continued to investigate. Harrison filed a slander lawsuit in 8/19 against the Roman Catholic Faithful, a group publicizing claims Harrison abused in Firebaugh. He also sued the diocese and a monk. Merced County DA said in 11/19 no charges due to SOL. In 2/20 Fresno DA said no charges due to SOL, but allegations appeared credible. Resigned priesthood in 2/21. Two suits filed in 6/21.
Ordained: 1946
Status: Settled
Retired in 1995. Sued in 12/03. Accused of abuse of two brothers, 5-19 and 10-15, in starting in 1959. No criminal charges due to statute of limitations. Appeals Court ruled 5/08 that lawsuit could go forward because Cardinal Mahony’s testimony indicated the church was or should have been aware that Herdegen might have been an abuser. CA Sup. Ct. declined to hear appeal on decision to go forward. Trial began 3/09. Jury found for Diocese on SOL 4/3/09. One plaintiff to get new trial. The younger brother received a settlement.
Ordained: 1979
Status: Settled
Accused in a lawsuit filed in 1/20 under the CA Child Victims Act of sexually abusing a girl, age 12, in 1979-80 at St. Philip the Apostle in Bakersfield. The girl’s father is said to have reported the abuse to church officials; Moreno was kept in ministry and moved by 12/80 to Sacred Heart in Fresno. Per the diocese, it received two allegations against Moreno in about 1979-80, and a third allegation was reported in 2008. Moreno was placed on leave 6/23/81 and “stopped serving as a priest” 2/9/95. The diocese offered the alleged victim financial compensation in 5/20.
Ordained: 1939
Status: Sued
From Ireland. Worked in Nigeria. Visiting priest in Fresno between assignments in 1970. Assigned to St. Anthony of Padua in Fresno. Accused in a 2013 civil suit of manually raping a 16-year-old girl. Her father died suddenly and O’Connell spent a lot of time with her family before allegedly raping her. Reportedly living in 2013 in a home for the Holy Ghost Fathers in Dublin, Ireland. In 2012, the same woman filed a separate suit against the Archdiocese of San Francisco for not doing anything when told of the abuse in 2003.
Ordained: 1987
Status: Sued
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish when sued in 2002; briefly placed on leave. Accused of abusing a teenage altar boy at Our Lady Of Guadalupe in Bakersfield 1989-93. Diocese deemed allegation not credible. Allowed to return to ministry after DA’s office did not pursue criminal charges 11/02; said no evidence and no witnesses. Mistrial in civil case 12/20/06 due to split decision: jury ruled Swearingen did likely abuse the boy, but diocese did not have prior knowledge. The suit required both claims to be true. Case went to binding arbitration 5/07. Decision to be secret. Named rector of diocesan high school in 12/07. In 6/14, named pastor of the Catholic Church of Visalia, also called Good Shepherd. Placed on leave 6/5/19 due to new information from the 2006 civil case. Reportedly ill with brain cancer. Died 1/18/20, age 58.

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