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Four Bay Area Priests Still on the Job Despite New Sex Abuse Allegations

A months-long NBC Bay Area investigation into a wave of new clergy abuse lawsuits has uncovered a series of allegations against dozens of Northern California priests and church employees accused for the first time of sexually abusing children. Some of them continue to work here. By Candice Nguyen, Michael Bott, Mark Villareal and Michael Horn • Published June 23, 2022 • Updated on June 23, 2022 at 6:19 p (Full story can been seen here)  Two Bay Area Catholic dioceses are allowing priests they employ to remain in ministry despite lawsuits now accusing the men of sexually abusing children earlier in their careers, NBC Bay Area has confirmed.   The findings come amid an ongoing NBC Bay Area investigation into a flood of new child sex abuse claims hitting Catholic institutions across the state. The civil lawsuits are the result of a 2019 California law that opened a three-year “lookback” window allowing new child sex abuse lawsuits based on claims typically barred by the statute of limitations. Click here to watch Part 1 of NBC Bay Area's investigation. Among the hundreds of new Northern California legal filings are startling accusations against four Bay Area priests who still work in the region. The dioceses they serve told NBC Bay Area internal reviews did not substantiate the claims against the men, and it would be unjust to keep them out of ministry. Dan McNevin, a local leader for the victim advocacy group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), said he's skeptical of such internal diocesan reviews. “The bishops have an obligation to sideline these people,” McNevin said. “Not only for the victim, who is courageous, but because the bishop is on notice that this priest might be dangerous.” Three of the accused priests – Fr. David Ghiorso, Msgr. Michael Harriman, and Fr. Michael Mahoney – work under the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Either directly or through their attorneys, all three priests refuted the allegations against them. The other priest – Rev. James Pulskamp – is the pastor of Santa Rosa’s Star of the Valley Catholic Church. Pulskamp did not respond to NBC Bay Area’s request for comment, but Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa said in a statement he finds it difficult to give the allegation any credence given the priest’s stellar reputation over the past 50 years. With one exception, the allegations against the priests are linked to two centers founded as homes for vulnerable children who were removed from troubled households: St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael and the Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma. St. Vincent's School for Boys in San Rafael, where multiple new lawsuits allege children were abused there in past decades. The claims relate to events occurring across nearly two decades, from the mid-1970s through the early 1990s. If true, the decades-old accusations expand what we know about Northern California’s clergy abuse scandal and suggest that internal lists of “credibly accused” priests released by most Bay Area dioceses in recent years are still incomplete. The plaintiffs making the accusations have so-far declined to be interviewed, but the lawsuits, and in some cases, their attorneys, detail the allegations. Rev. James Pulskamp & Hanna Boys Center The oldest accusation targets Rev. Pulskamp during his time as a priest at the Hanna Boys Center. The school and residential treatment center for vulnerable children has been a hotspot for child sexual abuse accusations in recent years. Pulskamp is accused in a new lawsuit of molesting a child there in the 1970s. “Because [the children there] are more vulnerable, they become prey for priests and people who work there,” said Mary Alexander, a Bay Area attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of an unnamed plaintiff. “So, it is something that we see all the time.” While Pulskamp now serves as the pastor of his Santa Rosa church, he’s listed as a Regent Emeritus on the Hanna Boys Center’s website. Bishop Vasa said Pulskamp remains in ministry after an internal review board recommended no action be taken against the priest. However, the Bishop said the diocese will continue to investigate any new details that emerge. Alexander said Pulskamp and any other priests facing new abuse accusations shouldn’t be working until more information comes out through the legal process. “I think that any priest who is still active and is accused, that he should be put on administrative leave, that there should be no access to children,” Alexander said.

SNAP calls on Episcopal Church to conduct full, fair, impartial investigation into allegations of abuse

(For Immediate Release June 29, 2022)  For the past several years, SNAP has followed allegations of non-sexual abuse involving anEpiscopal priest, Robert H. Malm. Fr. Malm is canonically resident in the Episcopal Diocese ofVirginia, and currently works as interim rector of St. Peter’s-on-the-Canal, in Bourne Ma.SNAP calls upon the Episcopal dioceses of Virginia and Massachusetts to comply with churchcanons, including the Title IV clergy disciplinary provisions. SNAP also calls upon law enforcement, local prosecutors, and both dioceses, to conduct full, fair, and impartial investigations into the allegations against Fr. Malm. The allegations against Fr. Malm are made by Eric Bonetti, a former parishioner, and include: - Filing false police reports.- Engaging in retaliation for filing a complaint about his conduct with the diocese.- Repeatedly filing false civil actions in which Fr. Malm claimed he was being threatened,despite having had no contact with Eric in several years.- Claiming that blog posts about him, on blogs published by Eric and family members,were “threatening and harassing.”- Concealing evidence adverse to Fr. Malm in litigation.- Repeatedly offering fabricated statements of law and fact to the courts.- Repeatedly committing perjury, including falsely claiming under oath that Eric’s latemother, then dying of COPD, contacted him repeatedly. Later, Fr. Malm told a judgeunder oath that he didn’t even know her name — despite the fact he expresslyreferenced her by name in his original sworn statement.- Falsely telling police that Eric had stalked, threatened, and “terrorized” Fr. Malm and hisfamily, despite having had no contact in several years.- Using inflammatory and inappropriate language in court, including referring to Eric as a“domestic terrorist.”- Witness tampering.- Falsely telling parishioners and others that Eric is mentally ill.- Lying to the Episcopal bishop of Virginia about facts related to the case.

SNAP applauds as the FBI opens a probe into abuse and cover-up within the Archdiocese of New Orleans

(For Immediate Release June 29, 2022)  We are encouraged by news that the FBI is looking into sexual abuse and cover-up within the Archdiocese of New Orleans. We have no doubt that this probe will reveal far more truths to the public than we have gotten from church officials in New Orleans. A probe like this is absolutely critical, especially when considering the move by church hierarchs in New Orleans to pre-emptively declare bankruptcy, a move that we believe was designed to shield assets, protect secrets, and prevent information about the cover-up from making it into the public eye. As we see it, the best justice that victims and the unsuspecting faithful can hope for lies with a secular law enforcement investigation. SNAP has long argued that true reform and change will come from the involvement of secular authorities and believe that what is happening in New Orleans is a welcome change and something that should be replicated throughout the United States. We hope that this news will especially encourage any survivors who have been suffering in silence to find the strength to come forward, make a report, and start healing. We believe that priests and deacons took boys across Louisiana’s borders to sexually abuse them, these acts are federal crimes, some of which may still be prosecutable. We applaud the New Orleans FBI field office and hope their investigation is not only for the Archdiocese of New Orleans but for all the dioceses across the state. CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager([email protected], 267-261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President ([email protected], 814-341-8386) Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)  (SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)  

SNAP responds to updated guidelines in the handling of clergy sexual abuse of minors

(For Immediate Release June 28, 2022)  Two years after launching “Version 1.0” of guidelines for how bishops, religious superiors, and canon lawyers are expected to handle complaints of alleged abuse by clergy, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has released an update. In a disappointing fashion, this update does not strengthen any existing requirements because the update is a mere suggestion without any teeth to enforce it. We are frustrated that “reforms” from the Vatican continue to lack the very clear and direct asks that survivors have been making for years. The update to the “Vademecum on Certain Points of Procedure in Treating Cases of Sexual Abuse of Minors Committed by Clerics” "does not have the power of law," according to a dicastery statement released on June 27; rather, it " is intended to respond to a growing need for knowledge" regarding the processes to be followed when allegations of abuse are made. To us, this is meaningless and is a continuance of what we have known for decades, that church officials can continue to make their own decisions regardless of what the Vatican announces publicly. There is no “growing need for knowledge:” reports from myriad countries and states already contain the experiences of survivors and their demands for reform, and these reports have made it clear that clergy sexual abuse remains a worldwide problem. That the Vatican continues to see “a growing need for knowledge” in how to respond to cases of sexual abuse is beyond worrying – to us, it is a signal they are willfully ignorant. New examples of sexual abuse of children and adults by those in positions of power are reported every day from all around the world. What specifically does their understanding lack if a " growing need for knowledge " cannot be observed through government committees established to investigate abuse inside the church or the startling findings of attorney general investigations? What is especially concerning is that these new rules appear to demonstrate that church officials around the world are still considering legitimate allegations false. This latest update added a sentence that said, "The anonymity of the source should not automatically lead to considering the report as false," when the charter rules were released in 2020. The revised standards reiterated this statement and added the following: "The source's anonymity should not automatically lead to the conclusion that the information is untrue, particularly if it is supported by material that attests to the possibility of a delict." This is a huge concern for us and makes us wonder how many cases of abuse were automatically dismissed because an individual wished to remain anonymous, or the church refused to provide them the documentation they know exists. We can only assume that this number of cases is as large as this “update” is minimal. CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager([email protected], 267-261-0578), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) (SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)   ###  

Clergy Abuse Survivors Gather as Powerful New Documentary on Abuse within the Catholic Church Premieres

Media Advisory (For Immediate Release June 16, 2022)  Clergy Abuse Survivors Gather as Powerful New Documentary on Abuse within the Catholic Church Premieres THE NEW RATLINE Exposes Ongoing Abuse and Cover-up in the United States and Abroad “Immigrant women and children are being abused and silenced by the Catholic Church,” says SNAP   WHAT: Holding signs, childhood photos, and posters at a sidewalk press conference, survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their advocates will: Share information regarding the case of Fr. Jesus Suarez and other cases of clergy abuse and cover-up that are contemporary with the cases explored in THE NEW RATLINE, Draw attention to today’s premiere, and Recognize the brave survivors and advocates who helped make this important documentary possible. WHO: Several members of survivor support and advocacy group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, including a Houston-area man who helped with the research for the film and other local California survivors of clergy abuse. WHEN: Survivors and advocates will gather at 2 PM and the Press Conference will begin at 3 PM on Friday, June 17 WHERE: Outside the TCL Chinese Theater, 6925 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood CA 90028 WHY: A powerful new documentary on clergy abuse and cover-up called THE NEW RATLINE is premiering at the Dances with Films festival, and survivors of clergy abuse and advocates are gathering to draw attention to the film, its premiere, and most importantly, the stories that the film details. From Dogtooth productions, THE NEW RATLINE is “a relentless search into one of our generation’s greatest cover-ups” and tells the story of Fr. Jesus Suarez, a priest from Colombia who is accused of sexually abusing young girls in his home country before being brought to the US – apparently with the full knowledge of local Church leadership – where his crimes were brought to light. After Fr. Suarez fled, investigative journalist John Carlos Frey went to find him and hopefully bring his victims some sense of justice. THE NEW RATLINE is the story of those efforts. “We are honored to have been able to work with John on this important film that tells a modern story of a problem that so many people think ended long ago,” said Eduardo Lopez de Casas, SNAP Board Member. “If we want to truly put a stop to this problem, we need more people to take the time to learn that it is still happening and that they can be a part of the solution.” CONTACT: Eduardo Lopez de Casas, SNAP Houston ([email protected], 361-571-7106), John Carlos Frey ([email protected]), Dorothy Small, SNAP Sacramento Area Leader, ([email protected], 530-908-3676), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) (SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for more than 30 years. We have upwards of 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org) 

Three-four adults who were sexually abused as kids and belong to a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

5th accuser names priest as predator in the 2000s He's just filed a new civil abuse & cover-up lawsuit Cleric IS ON THE JOB RIGHT NOW & never been suspended SNAP: "Nowhere in the US have we seen such recklessness" Victims beg archbishop “for kids' safety, oust the priest now” Churchgoers should "stop donating & insist on explanations" WHATWearing masks and socially distancing while holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters will---announce that fifth accuser has stepped forward to naming a currently-serving local pastor as a child molester,---provide copies of a new child sex abuse and cover-up lawsuit against the priest who is still a pastor now,---beg St. Louis’ archbishop to immediately suspend the cleric, &---beg Catholics to stop donating "until the archdiocese explains why they're violating church policy by never even suspending the cleric." WHENThursday, Feb. 10 at 1:15 p.m. WHEREOn the sidewalk outside the “new” cathedral, 4431 Lindell Blvd, (corner of Newstead) in the Central West End in St. Louis WHOThree-four adults who were sexually abused as kids and belong to a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org)

SNAP and Child USAdvocacy will provide testimony to Nebraska State Legislature Judiciary Committee

  (For Immediate Release January 20, 2022)  Critical legislation that will better protect Nebraskan children and provide support for victims of sexual abuse will be heard during a meeting of the Nebraska State Judiciary Committee on Friday, January 21, 2022. Sponsored by Sen. Rich Pahls, LB 833 is a bill that will repeal the statute of limitations for third parties in cases of sexual assault of a child.  To understand why this legislation is so important, look no further than this recent report by Nebraska Attorney General Douglas Peterson, which detailed the stories of 258 victims of Child Sexual Assault committed by church officials alone. The saddest fact is that none of these cases could be prosecuted due to statute of limitations concerns. Even though the average age at which a survivor of child sexual assault comes forward is 52 years old, the Nebraska statute of limitations currently bars civil cases from being brought after a victim is 33 years old. Fortunately, over the past three years, more than thirty states have reformed their statutes of limitation in cases of child sex crimes to be better in line with medical facts like delayed disclosure. Now, Nebraskans will have an opportunity of their own to start these important changes. Kathryn Robb, Esq. of Child USAdvocacy, Debbie Dappen, local SNAP Leader and Shaun Dougherty, Board President from SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) will be available to the media and can explain the importance of child sexual assault legislation in Nebraska along with and the broader national trend of repealing statutes of limitation on child sexual assault. Each individual can be available in the morning preceding the hearing.  CONTACT: Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President (814-341-8386), [email protected], Debbie Dappen, SNAP Leader, [email protected], Kathryn Robb, Esq. (www.childusadvocacy.org), (781-856-7207),  Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager (267-261-0578, [email protected] Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]) (SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

SNAP Virtual Mini Conferences

These virtual mini conferences are free to all and will feature opportunities for survivors and advocates to learn about topics like healing, advocacy, and self-care from a variety of different speakers throughout the year. Our next mini conference will be in March, 2022.

We are especially grateful to the Ribera Law Firm of San Francisco, California for being a Gold-level Sponsor for our mini-conferences. Their support is critical to our ability to hold these free events and we are grateful to them for their support. Learn more about the Ribera Law Firm here.

 

Additionally, SNAP is very grateful for the generous support of our 2022 mini conferences that has been provided through a grant from Oak Foundation Children First Fund, a fund of Tides Foundation.

 

Take Action and Stop Child Sexual Abuse

If you see child sexual abuse, or have a reasonable suspicion of sexual abuse or your child has been sexually abused, call 911 or your local police immediately. 

If you suspect abuse, call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or visit the Child Help Hotline. Trained crisis operators staff the lines 24/7 to answer your questions. If necessary, they will show you how to report in your local area.

Child pornography is a federal crime. If you see or suspect images that may be child pornography, report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTip Line

 

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