Letter to Bishop Michael Barber-Diocese of Oakland-SNAP has identified 227 publicly accused perpetrators
December 13, 2022
SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
PO Box 16376
Chicago, IL, 60616
Most Reverend Michael C. Barber, SJ
Diocese of Oakland
2121 Harrison Street, Suite 100
Oakland, CA 94612
Dear Bishop Barber,
We are writing to you because, so far, SNAP has identified 227 publicly accused perpetrators associated with the Diocese of Oakland, a stark contrast from your current list which only includes 65 names. Our list has been created through careful study of documents in the public domain, including culling the lists released by other Catholic dioceses and religious orders. We are sending you this complete list and ask that you take our research and use it to update your own list.
While we have strived very hard for accuracy, as you review our list if you find we have mistakenly included a name, please let us know why you believe we have erred. We will then modify our list if we agree.
We suspect that more names are likely coming because of the still open civil window in California. Right now, our list includes 20 newly accused who lived or worked in your Diocese. There will likely be a flurry of new lawsuits filed before the window closes on December 31, 2022. Only 20% of the 1100 known cases are in the public domain and Oakland is named in 54 individual lawsuits. If the trend holds, ultimately Oakland will likely be associated with several hundred lawsuits and dozens of new accused perpetrators.
In the current open window, 41 alleged abusers associated with the Oakland Diocese are being named as perpetrators so far, either in Oakland or other Northern California locations. Br. Sal Billante, for example, worked in Oakland from 1964 to 1972 according to the Official Catholic Directory and various published work histories. He is named in at least 22 lawsuits ranging from 1964 to 1989. While there is no new litigation against Oakland yet, he was working in your Diocese for several of those 25 years. Despite these now-public accusations, Br. Billante was only sidelined in 1989 when he was arrested.
The Oakland Diocese is in fact connected to three of what appears to be this cycle’s most prolific abusers: Br. Billante, Fr. Stephen Kiesle, and Msgr. Vincent Breen. Each of these men not only abused while in Oakland but are also on other lists compiled by SNAP. All three were arrested, but apparently, none were ever reported to law enforcement by their bishops or provincials.
Bishop Edward Scharffenberger, who heads the Diocese of Albany in New York, wrote the following in his March 29, 2022, pastoral letter in response to the release of a deposition given by his predecessor, Bishop Howard Hubbard:
“While the truth is often hard to bear, it might help us to remember that families where there has been abuse and betrayal cannot heal if the truth remains hidden. Families, like individuals, are ‘as sick as their secrets.’ We know from Luke 12:2 that ‘there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.’”
It is worth noting that Bishop Hubbard covered up for accused clergy, lied in an op-ed about that cover-up, and has been accused himself of abusing half a dozen children. He recently asked to be defrocked in lieu of the humiliation of a Vatican trial.
Bishop Scharffenberger has it right when he says families cannot heal if the truth remains hidden. Neither can the Church. We believe that releasing a more complete list would benefit all survivors, their families, and the public. Similarly, by being transparent and showing your willingness to be open about past abuse, this action would also greatly benefit your Diocese and your priests who have not been accused of engaging in sex crimes or sexual misconduct.
The importance of an accurate list for public safety cannot be overstated. According to Associated Press research, over 40% of accused priests and former priests are alive and hence are still dangerous. In addition, on average, it takes until age 52 for most survivors to find the strength to report. This means that many victims from the 1980s are just now speaking out. Delayed disclosure means that it is still too early to know the extent of abuse in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.
Our mapping of the Oakland Diocese indicates that 147 accused abusers worked there after 1981, the current crest year for 2022 reports. That means most abuse likely occurred after 1981 and much has yet to be reported.
Moreover, we know from media reports that recently employed priests in Oakland have fled the country or have been arrested. Each of those men likely has multiple victims; Father George Alengadan had worked in the diocese since the 1980’s. Fr. Padraig Greene, recently suspended, had worked in the diocese since around 1995, and Fr. Alex Castillo worked in Oakland beginning in around 2010. Both Fr. Alengadan and Fr. Castillo fled the country in 2020. Fr. Greene was arrested for public lewdness and reinstated and was just recently quietly suspended. Any possible or additional victims of those priests are post-1981 and may not report for years. None of these clerics were sidelined until 2020 or later.
We wrote you a letter in February of 2019. At the time, your list had only 45 names, and we urged you to add another 85. Although the letter was ignored, we wish to point out that we included on that list a religious order priest named Fr. Clifford Etienne. His abuse record had been revealed by another diocese and our research at the time showed Fr. Etienne worked in Oakland.
We suggested then that his name should be on your list, so that any potential victims here in Oakland could experience healing and validation with his abuse acknowledged by the Diocese. Our unfortunate prediction turned out to be accurate, as according to a lawsuit filed in this current open window, Fr. Etienne did molest while in Oakland. We also note from his movements that he left the Diocese soon after the time of this new accusation. It seems to us that his move up to Oakland and then away was a page right out of the "Bishop’s Playbook," as described in the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.
It is time to be truly open and transparent about Fr. Etienne, Fr. Castillo and all of the others.
With safety and recovery in mind, we respectfully submit this information to you,
Oakland Leader, SNAP
Survivor Support Coordinator, SNAP
Northern California Leader, SNAP
Board President, SNAP
Executive Director, SNAP
Communications Director, SNAP