CA--Accused priest quietly moves to San Diego; Victims cry “foul”

For immediate release: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2016

For more information: David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell,[email protected])

Accused priest quietly moves to SD

After “counseling,” he sexually harassed a 22 year old

He allegedly “coerced” her & later fired her from her job 

A civil lawsuit against him and his Michigan bishop is pending

Group urges SD Catholic officials to “warn parishioners & the public about him

A priest who was found to have sexually harassed a college student and who faces a pending civil abuse lawsuit has quietly moved to San Diego where he works for a lawyer. A victims group want bishops in California and Michigan to warn parishioners and the public about him.

Six months ago, officials at Central Michigan University ruled that Father Denis Heames sexually harassed then-22 year old Megan Winans. Saginaw Bishop Joseph Cistone ousted the priest, and Winans is now suing both clerics.

Fr. Heames is now a paralegal for attorney Richard McEntyre (619-221-0279) and claims, on his Linked In page, that he moved to California for "family" reasons, making no mention of the lawsuit against him. He also attended San Diego State University.

According to a Michigan newspaper, the lawsuit accuses Fr. Heames, McCaffery, the Saginaw diocese and a Saginaw parish of “battery, defamation, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, negligent supervision and vicarious liability” because Fr. Heames allegedly “abused his authority when he entered into a sexual relationship with (Winans) when he began acting as her spiritual counselor.”

Another defendant in the suit, Trudy McCaffrey, has also moved out of Michigan. She now works for the church in Irene, South Dakota where she’s a "spiritual director" for Broom Tree Retreat, cultivating new priests. (The lawsuit accuses McCaffery of claiming that Winans seduced Heames and had “the spirit of Jezebel.)

In at least a dozen states, it's a crime for a clergyperson to have sex with a congregant. Advocates say it’s inherently abusive for “well educated, powerful priests, who have massive power over parishioners, to exploit that power for their sexual gratification, just like doctors can’t have sex with patients and therapists can’t have sex with clients,” according to David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Letting McCaffery and Fr. Heames “quietly” move is “reckless, deceitful and callous” and “endangers vulnerable young church members,” said Clohessy. “These deliberate and irresponsible decision violate, at least in spirit, the US bishops’ abuse policy which supposedly mandates ‘openness and transparency’ in clergy abuse cases. Bishops in San Diego, South Dakota and Michigan are taking big risks here.”

“If Fr. Heames committed sexual misconduct before, we fear he’s apt do to so again, especially because he’s escaped consequences for inflicting this harm on a young student,” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “We see no evidence that either of these moves has been publicly disclosed by Catholic officials. California Catholics should be warned about him. South Dakota Catholics should be warned about her. If she ignored or concealed clergy sexual misdeeds once, or publicly attacked a suspected victim, we fear she’s apt to do so again.” 

The SNAP leaders question the wisdom of church officials’ secrecy.

“This case may go to trial. Who knows what kind of damaging information about Ms. McCaffery, Fr. Heames or other church staff may surface? Do Catholic officials really think it’s smart to let two alleged wrongdoers quietly go elsewhere and let one of them keep working in the church?” asked Clohessy. “Imagine how jurors would react if they decide these two are guilty and learn about more misdeeds they may have committed since going to these others states.”

“For the sake of the alleged victim and the safety of their flocks, we beg these three bishops to at least warn the public about these two defendants,” added Dorris. “That’s the bare minimum a self-professed shepherd would do in this case.”

Beyond that, Clohessy and Dorris are urging the South Dakota retreat center and the San Diego law firm to consider firing or at least suspending the two defendants. The two bishops – Bishop Paul Swain of Sioux Falls and Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, should do the same and issue public warnings, SNAP says.

“It all boils down to a simple question: Why take the chance of another possible offense? Is that fair to the staff and priests at the South Dakota institution or Fr. Heames’ co-workers, clients and neighbors in California?” Clohessy asked. 

A photo of Fr. Heames is here:

and here:

In June 2015, Saginaw Bishop Cistone put Fr. Heames on leave for "boundary violations" related to his priestly conduct, according to one newspaper.  A grand jury report from 2005 states Cistone participated in the cover up of multiple cases of child sexual abuse.

Winans, the alleged victim, is represented by Lansing attorney James T. Heos. 

In recent years, Fr. Heames may have also spent time in Canada and Pennsylvania.

Here’s more information showing McCaffery has moved:


Former CMU priest named in Isabella County civil suit

By Susan Field, Morning Sun, February 17, 2016

Negligent supervision and defamation, including being labeled a “Jezebel” by an employee of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saginaw are among the claims a former Central Michigan University student is alleging in a civil suit in Isabella County.

Megan Winans, who is suing former St. Mary’s University Parish priest Denis Heames, the Saginaw diocese and one of its employees, Trudy McCaffery, said in the suit that Heames  . . . 

Read full article here

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