CA -- Victims blast SF Catholic officials re Archbishop Riordan charges
For immediate release: Tuesday March 3, 2015
We’re alarmed and saddened by allegations that a Catholic principal is acting inappropriately and that San Francisco Catholic officials refuse to talk about these serious accusations. And we applaud the teachers who have spoken up and are speaking up.
Several teachers at Archbishop Riordan High School feel attacked by principal Vittorio Anastasio because they reported “sexually-graphic pictures and a racy video of a student” being circulated at the school. (Source: Dan Noyes of ABC7News).
We’re most upset about three parts of this disturbing case.
1) ABC7news reports that “the principal played a video of a 17-year-old Riordan High student. The teachers say the boy, in khaki pants and no shirt, appeared to be at a party lifting girls' skirts to reveal their naked bottoms and touching them in a sexual way.”
In response, Catholic officials say they looked into “suggestive photographs of adults” but apparently refused to address accusations of the inappropriate video of teenagers. Was it given to police? We call on San Francisco’s archbishop to immediately and thoroughly explain what he and his staff did about this video.
2) San Francisco Catholic officials claim to have done an ‘investigation’ into these allegations. But the truth is that a retired Catholic principal made some phone calls from out-of-state and claims that nothing wrong happened. That’s wrong. That’s a “whitewash,” not an “investigation.”
3) For decades now, Catholic bishops have pledged to be “open” about known and suspected sexual misdeeds by their staff. But San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, refuses to answer questions about this troubling situation.
We beg everyone who has seen, suspected or suffered sexual misdeeds or cover ups at Riordan to come forward. It’s crucial that these accusations be reported to independent sources of help – police, prosecutors, therapists and groups like ours. When victims, witnesses and whistleblowers stay silent, more people get hurt. But when we find the courage to step forward, there’s at least a chance for healing, justice and prevention.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
I-TEAM INVESTIGATES SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT PHOTO, VIDEO SCANDAL AT PREP SCHOOL
A prestigious, private school run by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, is facing a scandal involving sexually-graphic pictures and a racy video of a student.
By Dan Noyes - Thursday, February 05, 2015 12:00AM
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Archbishop Riordan High School (ARHS), a prestigious, all-male Catholic prep school run by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, is facing a scandal involving sexually-graphic pictures and a racy video of a student. Tuition is $16,820, but boarding students pay $47,500.
Over the last 18 months, at least five teachers have complained to the archdiocese about the principal showing pictures of naked women and other images not appropriate for a school environment. And some of those teachers tell Dan Noyes they have faced retaliation because they took a stand.
Vittorio Anastasio graduated from Riordan, coached the wrestling team for years, worked as guidance counselor and became principal in 2013. The I-Team spoke with several teachers now accusing the 48-year-old of conduct that is not proper for a school setting.
Teacher 1: "And he showed me an inappropriate picture of a frontal of a naked woman."
Noyes: "From top to bottom?"
Teacher 1: "Yes."
Noyes: "You could see everything?"
Teacher 1: "Yes."
The I-Team spoke with three Riordan High teachers on camera. They don't want to show their faces out of concern for their careers. Their stories echo what Noyes heard from other faculty and staff -- that Anastasio, on more than 20 occasions, used a phone or iPad to show pictures of naked women, including some sexually-explicit photos, and one picture of the principal meeting porn star Ron Jeremy.
Noyes: "How does it come up?"
Teacher 2: "'Let me show you this. Look at this. What do you think about this one?' That's how it comes up. Casually, like it's no big deal."
Two of the teachers were especially concerned when the principal played a video of a 17-year-old Riordan High student. The teachers say the boy, in khaki pants and no shirt, appeared to be at a party lifting girls' skirts to reveal their naked bottoms and touching them in a sexual way.
Noyes: "When you show a video involving a student, that's a whole other matter, right?"
Teacher 2: "Oh, absolutely. Now, you're dealing with the laws, you know. Underage kids. That's a serious matter."
Teacher 3: "First, I was kind of taken aback and then obviously I thought it's not right, you know? We're a Catholic school. It wasn't the right thing to do."
Anastasio has hired attorney Harmeet Dhillon, a powerful figure in the state Republican Party. She emailed the I-Team, "The allegations against Mr. Anastasio are false and defamatory," and she threatened to sue the teachers.
A law firm responded for the teachers, "We certainly hope Mr. Anastasio is not using the threat of the legal process to silence his employees from pursuing their complaints or from talking to the press, which obviously would be further evidence of retaliation." The law firm's letter also reads. "Several of Mr. Anastasio's employees have lodged formal complaints with ARHS and the Archdiocese based on the allegations of inappropriate conduct and unlawful retaliation."
Two of the teachers who complained are out on stress leave.
Teacher 1: "I told him it was inappropriate and from that point on, he retaliated against me and that created a hostile and toxic working environment."
Dan: "What sorts of things have happened to the people who have complained?"
Teacher 2: "Letters, suspensions, lost days without pay. It's all over the school that we're the bad guys. They've just flipped the whole thing around that we've done something wrong."
The Archdiocese issued a media advisory in response to our reporting: "Last summer we thoroughly investigated a claim that, many months earlier, suggestive photographs of adults had allegedly been shared among faculty or staff. We determined that nothing inappropriate happened. To be certain this investigation was done properly, and covered all possible details, we retained an objective outside expert to review the investigation. Her conclusion was the same."
That "objective outside expert" is Rita Gleason, a retired Catholic high school principal who wrote a letter that she "admires Archbishop Riordan High School" and "has had the pleasure of working with some of the administrators." She concluded, "I found nothing illegal, immoral, or unfair."
But, the I-Team has learned that Gleason did not speak with any of the teachers who complained about the photographs or video. Gleason admits in a letter to faculty and staff that she performed her entire investigation by phone and e-mail from her home in Louisiana.
"That's an unusual move," said Gil Soffer, ABC7 legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. "Go to someone who's had that experience, go to an investigator, go to a prosecutor, go to a former detective, go to a former FBI agent, there are plenty to be found."
While he hasn't seen the video, Soffer added that a principal showing a sexually-suggestive video of an underage student could violate federal law.
"If it is sexually suggestive and is intended to generate a sexual reaction in the person watching, then it could be child pornography," Soffer said.
While the Archdiocese is holding meetings to figure out how to handle this crisis, all the major players are refusing to be interviewed. The I-Team asked:
ARHS Principal Vittorio Anastasio
Harmeet Dhillon, Anastasio's lawyer
Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco
Father John Piderit, number two at the Archdiocese
Maureen Huntington, Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Joe Conti, ARHS President
They all declined. It is a major step for the teachers to speak out. They tell Noyes, they had to.
Teacher 2: "I've been brought up with integrity and I'm going to uphold that, even if it means my job. And I'm going to save this school because this could destroy our school and I don't want that to happen."
Teacher 1: "My question to Mr. Anastasio is, where is his moral compass as a Catholic school principal leading our young men?"
Noyes: "You question that?"
Teacher 1: "I question that."
Point blank, the teachers want the principal to go. This story began with a tip from a concerned parent. You can email the I-Team through this page, reach Noyes on social media or call 1-888-40-I-Team.
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.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
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.