The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
to Bishop Vigneron
March 3, 2005
The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Dear Bishop Vigneron:
We are writing about Fr. George Crespin and the severe mishandling of this case by Oakland Catholic officials.
The Oakland Diocese publication "The Catholic Voice" recently published an article about Crespin which generally was skewed in support of him, and seemed to us (and many others) to denigrate the abuse claim made against him. In this story, as well as one in a secular newspaper too, Crespin's alleged victim wa accused of simply seeking money. In the Voice article, Ray Breton and other diocese spokespeople appeared to backslide on the issue of the merit of the allegation when confronted by the pressure of parishioners, who themselves have no information about the allegation or the internal findings of the Diocese. It appears the Diocese buckled under pressure.
We believe the tenor and lack of balance in the article creates hostility towards Crespin's alleged survivor, suspicion towards survivors in general, and would likely discourage other potential survivors of Crespin or any other priest from ever coming forward. This reminds some of us of the Msgr. Vincent Breen arrest in 1982, when the families of 7 girls brought charges validated by the Fremont police, and powerful families who supported Breen in effect simply shouted those poor families down. The bishop at that time, did nothing to support those survivors and as a result even greater psychological harm was engendered.
We are glad you spoke by phone the other day (March 1) with several survivors who were upset by the mishandling of the Crespin case. You assured them that you support the Diocesan Review Board and Sr. Barbara Flannery, who investigated the report of abuse against Fr. Crespin and determined that the allegation had merit. Those survivors perceived your comments to be that you agreed with the advice of the Review Panel and therefore Father Crespin's removal is your decision.
Given this sad and confusing situation, we now request that you
- allow us to speak at Crespin's Berkeley parish,
- insist that his former Berkeley parishioners stop publicly rallying around the accused clerics, and
- apologize for contradictory, insensitive public remarks made by church officials about the case.
- publicize your support of the Independent Review Board's findings, and that you make an explicit, public statement in the Catholic Voice to that effect, reiterating your intent to follow the Dallas Charter in investigating this allegation involving George Crespin.
We do not, at this point, expect you to judge Fr. Crespin guilty. We are asking you to ensure a balanced and accurate reporting; one that diffuses hostility and respects that a man who might be fragile has brought forward an allegation that your Review Board and abuse out reach specialist deem to have merit. We believe that you, as bishop and leader of your flock, have a unique perspective and position to support both accused and accuser.
We also believe that you have an obligation to create a climate that encourages, rather than discourges, all victims of sex crimes (whether by clergy or other perpetrators) to come forward, get help, contact the police, and begin to heal. The mishandling of the Crespin case, however, contributes to a negative climate, not a positive one. Therefore, we ask that you take immediate steps to rectify the harm that has been done, rein in Crespin's most vocal and misguided supporters, and make sure that similar confusing and insensitive messages do not get sent in the future.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests