|CA woman makes plea
to victims of clergy abuse
Diocese of Oakland has agreed to pay her $3 million
Charles Burress, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, January 26, 2004
Clutching her 2-year-old son to her side, Jennifer Chapin faced
the media in Oakland on Sunday to tell of harrowing sexual abuse
by a Catholic priest and to urge other victims to come forward.
Chapin, a 31-year-old psychiatric nurse now living in Oakdale,
has been awarded $3 million in a settlement reached Friday with
the Diocese of Oakland. It is one of the largest disclosed settlements
in the state between a diocese and a single victim. On Sunday, she
brought a small photo of herself dressed in white Communion dress
when she was 7 years old, an age when she said she was already a
victim of the late Monsignor George Francis, pastor of St. Bede
Parish in Hayward, where Chapin's family were members.
"I was raped several times by Msgr. Francis, very ritualistically
and sadistically," she said. She said the abuse started when
she was 6 and continued about four years.
Diocese representatives could not be reached to comment Sunday.
Diocese Chancellor Sister Barbara Flannery, who's in charge of diocesan
programs for victims, said she wants to have reconciliation services
this year in each parish where abuses have occurred, according to
a Catholic News Service report.
Chapin, who said she's no longer a practicing Catholic, said Flannery
had been responsive and has arranged for Chapin to enter diocese-funded
therapy. She said she was satisfied with her settlement but not
with a diocese refusal to reveal other cases of alleged abuse.
She also called on the church to encourage other victims to come
forward and provide more help.
Appearing at a news conference in front of the diocese's closed
offices on Lakeshore Avenue, she said she was pleased most by an
agreement in the settlement by which she will participate as a speaker
for a diocese-sponsored education campaign on sexual abuse.
"The most satisfying is being able to speak in the educational
process and prevent this from happening to others," she said,
holding her son, Billy- Bob. She was flanked by her husband, Michael,
who sometimes squeezed her hand, and by three other victims of sexual
Michael Chapin, a photographer for churches, said his reaction
upon learning of what happened to his wife was "maybe a little
shock but mainly lots of anger. I've had a lot of anger toward the
church since then."
One of Chapin's lawyers, Rick Simons, said a neighbor had reported
Francis' suspicious behavior toward Chapin at the time but that
the diocese did not take action and later destroyed the record of
that report and similar reports about other perpetrators.
Chapin said she first revealed her abuse in 1992 to her first husband
and that her current husband encouraged her to contact the diocese
about it two years ago.
She filed suit against the diocese in November 2002, and then refiled
it in February 2003 to comply with a new state law that created
a one-year window to file old claims of sexual abuse.
One of the three other women, Terrie Light, said she too was raped
by Francis when she was 7.
"This man was a monster," said Light, Northern California
coordinator of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
She said she's spoken to five other women abused by Francis, who
died in 1998.
Light called on the diocese to "name all the priests that
there are credible allegations against."
E-mail Charles Burress at email@example.com.