Another Priest in Fresno Suspended, SNAP Reacts
The alleged abuse apparently took place recently, and we applaud the person who found the courage to report to law enforcement. We hope that their willingness to stand up and speak out will help prevent other cases of abuse in the future and will inspire other survivors, witnesses and whistle blowers to come forward.
Rev. Diaz is the fifth priest from the Diocese of Fresno to be suspended from ministry recently. At least four of those priests – Rev. Diaz, Fr. Jean-Michael Lastiri, Fr. Gaspar Bautista, and Msgr. Craig Harrison – have been suspended due to allegations of abuse, a high number for a diocese as small as Fresno.
While police work to investigate the allegations against Rev. Diaz, we encourage Bishop Michael Brennan to personally visit every parish where Rev. Diaz and these other men worked and urge anyone with information on these cases to share it with law enforcement.
We also hope that Bishop Brennan will again encourage his flock to refrain from holding vigils or other public shows of support for the accused priests. While we have no firsthand knowledge in any of these cases, we know from studies that false allegations of child sexual abuse are extremely rare. Such demonstrations only serve to intimidate victims, witnesses and whistle blowers into hiding and can impede investigations, especially if the survivor is still a minor. We were grateful when Bishop Brennan counseled his flock on how to react to allegations of abuse previously and hope he will do so again.
As many of the communities that fall within the Diocese of Fresno are home to large populations of Latino folks, we encourage the district attorneys who serve those counties to establish hotlines in both English and Spanish where survivors can make a report about clergy abuse. In announcing these hotlines, investigators should also make special mention of the fact that California is a sanctuary status, and so any undocumented witnesses or survivors should know that they can come forward without fear of reprisal from the government. Everyone should be encouraged to make a report of the abuse they saw or suffered, regardless of immigration status.
CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Board Member (firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-341-6417), Joey Piscitelli, SNAP California (email@example.com, 925-262-3699) Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator, (firstname.lastname@example.org, 925-708-6175), Esther Hatfield Miller, SNAP Los Angeles (562-673-9442, email@example.com), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org, 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)