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