Another Lawsuit Filed Against Msgr. Vincent Breen
A new lawsuit has been filed by three survivors of childhood sexual abuse who allege they were abused at the hands of a priest in the Diocese of Oakland. Suits were previously file in 2003 and 2010. We applaud these courageous women who have persevered to bring more information about the abuse by Msgr. Vincent Breen to light. Without the recently passed AB 218 signed by Governor Gavin Newsom and championed by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, there would be no opportunity to fully reveal the monsignor’s predations.
Of note is the repeated failure of multiple adults – including nuns, bishops, school principals and other priests – to defend and protect children. Instead, they allowed Msgr. Breen to prey upon young girls for at least 22 years. All, it appears, because of his prodigious fundraising prowess.
Also of note is the terrible corruption evident in the "deal" made by then-Bishop John Cummins with the Alameda County District Attorney’s office. Msgr. Breen had been arrested in 1981, with Fremont police having identified at least eight victims. But instead of going to jail, the monsignor was let off the hook on condition he move out of the county. He was permitted to retire a priest in "good standing" and never faced criminal justice.
The deal between the DA and Bishop Cummins is similar to a situation in Pennsylvania where a priest accused of abuse there, Fr. Ernest Paone, was sent to California after a deal with DA Robert Masters of Beaver County. Once shuffled to California, Fr. Paone abused again in California.
We hope in this current climate, each and every District Attorney and Attorney General in the country will stay away from secret or back room deals with Catholic hierarchy. These agreements are part of the playbook dubbed the “circle of secrecy” and discovered during the blockbuster Pennsylvania Grand Jury investigation.
Msgr. Breen is reported to have at least 100 Fremont victims, but SNAP fears the number is much higher, largely because he built and ran Holy Spirit Elementary School from 1956 until his forced retirement. The monsignor was ordained in 1936 and before coming to Fremont he worked in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and in what is now the Diocese of Stockton. Msgr. Breen was almost always involved in school settings which gave him his easy access to young girls. He lived unsupervised in the Bay area as a retired priest "in good standing" until his death. His survivors today, if still alive, could be as old as 90 and as young as 40.
We call on the current Oakland bishop, Bishop Michael Barber, to aggressively seek any living victims of Msgr. Breen. Similarly, we call on San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Stockton Bishop Myron Cotta to publicize the monsignor’s crimes and ask victims and witnesses in each of those dioceses to come forward. Church officials should use church bulletins, email lists and all other resources at their disposal to assist in finding survivors who then can start to heal and fully reveal Msgr. Breen's history of abuse.
Finally, we call on Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to assist with these civil lawsuits by providing all records her office has that relate to the investigation and deal made between the Alameda DA and the Oakland Diocese in 1982. That file must come to light as well so that reforms can be made to ensure that law enforcement puts the protection of children ahead of backdoor deals with powerful church officials.
CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Board Member ([email protected], 415-341-6417), Joey Piscitelli, SNAP California ([email protected], 925-262-3699) Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator, ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Esther Hatfield Miller, SNAP Los Angeles (562-673-9442, [email protected]), 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)