Church officials in Tucson and Los Angeles Sued for Racketeering

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Arizona alleges that St. John’s Seminary in California “produced a disproportionate number of sexual predators, many of which were then sent to Tucson, a known ‘dumping ground’ for abusive priests.” The Los Angeles Times reported that 65 of the Seminary’s 625 graduates between 1950 and 2005 have been accused of sexual abuse, higher than what studies in the United States have found for priests in general. 

Whether or not the court moves this RICO lawsuit forward, its underlying facts are important and cannot be denied. If 65 out of a total of 625 graduates from St. John's Seminary are known abusers, over 10% of their priests sexually abused children over a 55 year period. Untold others abused vulnerable adults. 

SNAP's study of abuse trends across all 196 dioceses and religious orders produced similar findings. We believe that if a nationwide, robust secular investigation is ever undertaken, it is likely that one in ten clerics over the past four generations have abused Catholic children. The abuse rate in secular society is closer to 1 in 200. 

SNAP also has no doubt that this percentage will increase over time as windows of justice are opened in more states. Every state which has launched a secular investigation doubles or triples the number of Catholic abusers in those states. Look no further than the states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, where their Attorney General's have done the heavy lifting of issuing subpoenas and dedicating the human resources necessary to unearth horrific secrets. 

The window of justice now open in New York has generated over 1200 claims of abuse against Catholic priests. These claims have doubled the number of known abusers in the New York Archdiocese from the list that Cardinal Timothy Dolan produced prior to the legislation. Buffalo, now morally and financially bankrupt, has had its numbers quadruple. It is obvious to any unbiased observer why both Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo opposed the Child's Victim's Action (CVA) ever becoming law.

It is past time for secular society to demand reform in the Catholic Church. Millions of children have been exposed to sick, sexually abusive priests and their hierarchical enablers. Tens of thousands of victims have come forward. Many, many more will come forward over time. Even today, bishops try to suppress reports and deny their fiscal and pastoral obligations to these survivors. For example, a priest in the Oakland Diocese, California, fled the state in the wake of a criminal investigation. His bishop, Michael Barber, refuses to include the absconded cleric on his list of abusers. It is time to unmask this charade and once and for all study and acknowledge what happened and what went wrong.

Just last week in Ireland, a tragic report was released describing terrible abuse within that country's Catholic-dominated "mothers and baby" homes. The culture that permitted such a horrific tragedy exists in the US as well. The Catholic Church has an outsized impact on the politics of this nation. Our new President is Catholic and so is the Speaker of the House. These politicians need to demand true accountability from their religious leaders. 

Priests have been shuffled among parishes, dioceses, and countries to avoid the scandal they have caused. They have broken the spirits of countless devout Catholic children. Today's bishops continue to refuse to accept their obligations, to be honest about what has happened. 

We hope this lawsuit proceeds. It is about much more than just Los Angeles and Tucson. There are dumping grounds around the world, in each diocese and in every country where the Catholic Church exists. Our society needs the information a RICO investigation would yield. Only with transparency can new systems be designed that will prevent the continued sexual abuse of children by trusted leaders within the largest and richest organization on earth.

CONTACT: Tim Lennon, SNAP President and Tucson Leader ([email protected], 415-312-4580) 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

Showing 2 comments

  • Debby Bodkin
    commented 2021-01-29 08:24:45 -0600
    Any type of RICO lawsuit/investigation is URGENT! Thank you for this update. My fear is Catholic Dioceses have negotiated secret federal non-prosecution agreements, similar to the agreement Jeffrey Epstein had with the U.S. Department of Justice in Florida. If federal non-prosecution agreements exist with Catholic leaders, then it would explain failures of the U.S. government to take corrective action for thousands of heinous sex crimes committed against precious children. I pray secret, backroom non-prosecution agreements do not exist. Without justice, there will never be peace. Without peace, faith and our country’s laws are empty.
  • Zach Hiner
    published this page in Official SNAP Media Statements 2021-01-20 11:05:46 -0600

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