CA--Diocese featured in today's NYTimes keeps guilty predator on the job

For immediate release: Tuesday, Sept. 22

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those abused by Priests (314 566 9790[email protected])

A page one New York Times story today reports a priest shortage in the Fresno Diocese.

That shortage is likely one reason that found guilty in a civil trial of molesting a boy but remains in a parish there.

He's Fr. Eric Swearingen. He heads four Catholic churches in Visalia, a town mentioned in the Times article.

And he’s one of about a dozen proven, admitted or credibly accused US priests who are still on the job in the US now.

A 2006 jury voted 9-3 that Fr. Eric abused Juan Rocha. But they deadlocked on the second question facing them: whether diocesan officials should have known about and prevented the abuse. So technically, it was a mistrial. But an impartial panel heard the evidence and decided, by a sufficient margin, legally speaking, that Fr. Eric had molested a boy.

Yet he’s still in parish work, despite thousands of “zero tolerance” abuse pledges by US bishops over decades.

Bishop Armando Ochoa is not only keeping Fr. Swearingen on the job around largely unsuspecting families. But last year, he promoted Fr. Swearingen. (Ochoa is the second Fresno bishop to keep Fr. Swearingen around kids. His predecessor, Bishop John Steinbock, did as well, even after the court decision.)

Lately, there’s been considerable attention on predator priests – proven and accused – being sent to the developing world from the developed world and still ministering. But this isn’t just a “foreign” problem. Proven, admitted and credibly accused predator priests are still in parishes in the US as well.

(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 20,000 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, [email protected][email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747[email protected])

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