CA- Accused Santa Rosa predator priest passes; SNAP responds
For immediate release: Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014
For more information: Joelle Casteix 949 322 7434, firstname.lastname@example.org,
David Clohessy 314 566 9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com
Accused pedophile priest has passed away
Cleric unsuccessfully sued a victim for slander
She received more than $1 million in settlement
Yet Catholic officials still kept him in a parish for years
A Napa Catholic priest who was accused of sexually assaulting a child, Msgr. Joseph Alzugaray, has passed away. A church lay panel recommended he be suspended and his victim received a $1+ million settlement, but Santa Rosa Catholic officials still kept him in parish ministry for years.
A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is urging Santa Rosa’s Catholic Bishop Robert F. Vasa to “aggressively reach out to others who may have seen, suspected or suffered Msgr. Alzugaray's crimes.”
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, believe that others may have been molested by Msgr. Alzugaray but “may still be suffering in silence, intimidated by Msgr. Alzugaray's mean-spirited defamation lawsuit and Bishop Walsh's complicity and callousness.”
“We are relieved that Msgr. Alzugaray can never hurt another child, but for Santa Rosa's bishop to do nothing now is irresponsible,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP’s director. “Catholic officials in Los Angeles found one of his victims credible. One Catholic official in Santa Rosa did not. Justice demands a re-examination of this troubling case.”
“It'll be tempting and easy for Bishop Vasa to duck and dodge and 'pass the buck' here,” said Joelle Casteix, SNAP's western regional director. “But that's wrong. Santa Rosa Catholics and citizens deserve to know more about how the Msgr. Alzugaray case was handled by diocesan officials.”
In 2004, Alzugaray was sued for allegedly abusing an eight year old girl in the 1960s in the Los Angeles archdiocese at Immaculate Conception School in Monrovia. He then sued her for defamation of character, along with SNAP and the woman's attorney.
Roughly a dozen of the more than 6,000 publicly accused US predator priests have filed similar suits against their accusers. Msgr. Alzugaray's suit was dismissed in 2006.
In 2009, a diocese "review panel" conducted an internal investigation and determined that Alzugaray should be removed from ministry. Then-Bishop Daniel Walsh rejected the recommendation, instead allowing Alzugaray to remain the head of the Napa Deanery and the pastor at St. Apollinaris parish where he had direct oversight of a parochial school. Alzugaray retired from the priesthood in 2011.
A psychologist appointed to the panel by Walsh resigned in protest over Walsh's decision.
“Msgr. Alzugaray can’t be criminally charged or forced to testify in civil court, but those who may have covered up his crimes and let him stay in ministry around kids must still be held responsible,” said SNAP Western Regional Director Joelle Casteix. "What is the good of a 'review board' if bishops ignore their investigations and conclusions? How many children were put at risk?"
Msgr. Alzugaray originally was a Los Angeles archdiocesan priest but later joined the Santa Rosa diocese. His victim believes that around 1996, he was sent away to northern California after she came forward with her abuse report.
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.