CA -- New evidence surfaces against controversial SF priest; SNAP responds

For immediate release: Thursday, April 23

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790,

Once again Bay Area Catholics learn about serious charges against a priest only through the news media, not from their alleged “shepherds.”

Star of the Sea parishioners have apparently learned via news reports that their pastor, Fr. Joseph Illo, was essentially deemed guilty of intimidating a young alleged victim of a predator priest.

When will Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone learn that, in the words of Martin Luther King, “no lie lives forever.” When will he start being honest with Catholics about the misconduct of their priests?

Shame on him, Fr. Illo, and other San Francisco church officials who kept the jury verdict against Fr. Illo hidden.

This isn’t an “allegation” against Fr. Illo. It’s a jury verdict. An impartial, vetted group of citizens heard all the evidence and found that Fr. Illo had indeed mistreated this brave young girl.

(That same jury found the accused predator in this case, Fr. Francis Arakal, not guilty of sexual battery. But we strongly suspect the outcome would have been very different if Fr. Illo, his colleagues and his supervisors had acted responsibly in this case and aggressively reached out to victims instead of intimidating them.)

For the safety of kids and the healing of victims, we call on the archbishop to suspend Fr. Illo immediately. Otherwise, Bay Area priests will get the message that it’s OK to yell at a child

Finally, shame on parishioner Vivian Dudro who admitted Fr. Illo’s behavior would have made a child feel “at the very least uncomfortable and intimidated” but also somehow manages to believe there was no misbehavior on the priest’s part even though an impartial jury awarded the girl $20,000.

In a stunning display of callousness, Dudro also said “If there’s anybody who can pump new life into this church, it’s Father Illo.”

She obviously believes that a priest’s alleged skill at growing his flock trumps his proven intimidation of a young alleged child sex abuse victim. Imagine what Jesus might say to her.

 And shame on Larry Kamer, one of Cordileone’s public relations team. He said “In this particular case, the police and the jury both found that there was never any abuse and the matter was resolved on other issues.” That’s disingenuous spin.

The jury did find insufficient evidence to deem Fr. Arakal guilty. But they found ample evidence to deem Fr. Illo guilty. Shame on Kamer for twisting the truth, insulting the jury and re-victimizing the brave girl and her family.

Kamer, also encouraged Catholics to express any concerns directly with the parish and archdiocese. He’s wrong. Those who want to protect their kids and learn the truth should contact police, prosecutors, journalists, lawyers and groups like ours. That’s the way to make a difference. Calling biased, self-serving church officials is at best a waste of time and at worst a way to enable cover ups to remain covered up.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 22,000 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

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell,, Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell,, Tim  Lennon 415­312­

Old court case fuels calls for SF pastor’s ouster

By Laura Dudnick @LauraDudnick

Some parents of students at Star of the Sea Catholic school were outraged by language in a pamphlet of questions given to penitents before confession.

Parents at a Catholic elementary school in San Francisco renewed calls this week for the ouster of the parish’s controversial pastor after details emerged of a decade-old case in which he emotionally distressed a young girl at his former parish in Modesto.

The civil case, settled in San Joaquin County Superior Court in 2005, found that the Rev. Joseph Illo inflicted emotional distress on the 11-year-old girl while at St. Joseph’s Parish in Modesto. The incident occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, when the girl reported alleged sexual misconduct by another priest working under Illo.

Illo is now the parish administrator of Star of the Sea parish in The City.

The girl had gone to the rectory at St. Joseph’s to report the alleged sexual abuse of herself and her sister to Illo, the pastor of Father Francis Arakal, who was accused of the abuse. The lawsuit states that Illo in turn called the girl a liar and yelled at her, causing emotional distress. The girl was ultimately awarded $20,000 in damages.

Upon reading the plaintiffs’ settlement conference statement and judgment this week, parents at the K-8 school Star of the Sea Elementary School expressed further outrage over the latest clash between Illo and members of the school community. Previously, parents were upset about a new policy to no longer train girls as altar servers and the distribution of sexually explicit pamphlets to children before confession.

“If true, in my opinion, the parents of the school are owed an explanation and assurances as to the safety of their children,” Bob Regan, whose daughter attends Star of the Sea, said in response to the court documents.

However, hundreds of parishioners are voicing support for Illo, who they say has revived the Star of the Sea parish since arriving in August. In fact, within the past month a petition with more than 500 signatures was delivered to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone urging that Illo be kept in the parish.

“He’s a very dynamic and vigorous guy,” said Vivian Dudro, a parishioner who has known Illo for 25 years. “If there’s anybody who can pump new life into this church, it’s Father Illo.”

Dudro called the civil case from Modesto “an unfortunate situation” but that there was no misbehavior on Illo’s part.

“I’m a mother, and I don’t doubt that the child would have felt at the very least uncomfortable and intimidated in a situation like that,” Dudro said. “However, I believe from the bottom of my being that Father Illo would have never intended harm of a child, ever.”

Larry Kamer, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said parents are encouraged to express any concerns directly with the parish and archdiocese.

“Any matter concerning even the allegation of abuse is something the church takes quite seriously,” Kamer said. “In this particular case, the police and the jury both found that there was never any abuse and the matter was resolved on other issues.”

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