Diocese of Oakland Settles with Victim of Abusive Priest
Catholic officials from the Diocese of Oakland have settled a lawsuit with a former seminarian who was sexually abused by a priest. The clergyman remains on leave and is still receiving his paycheck. We hope that this story encourages others who were hurt by clergy in Oakland to come forward, make a report to the police, and start healing.
We are grateful to this brave victim for coming forward and sharing his story. Thanks to him and his legal team, more people are aware of the danger presented by Fr. Michael Van Dinh and the issue of seminarians who experience sexual abuse. We hope that now Catholic officials in Oakland will be forced to reckon with the culture within their diocese that allowed this abuse to happen in the first place.
One of the most notable aspects of this case is the fact that Diocesan Leaders in Oakland waited for four days after receiving allegations against Fr. Van Dinh to report the crime to law enforcement. Unfortunately, the District Attorney declined to charge the priest.
The refusal of the Diocese to promptly report crimes appears to be part of a larger, more disturbing trend in Oakland. Four priests have been accused of recent sex crimes since 2017, but at least two of them – Fr. Varghese Alengadan and Fr. Alexander Castillo – have fled justice. It is difficult to take Catholic officials at face value when they talk about “prioritizing victims” but repeatedly allow abusers to escape justice and choose not to name accused abusers like Fr. Castillo on their list of clergy with “credible allegations” of abuse.
There is clearly a lot of work to be done in Oakland. We are grateful to this victim for his part in forcing more disclosures into the public sphere and hope that parents and parishioners in the Bay Area will begin demanding answers and actions from their Diocesan leaders.
(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)