Notorious Catholic Abuser Charged with Vehicular Manslaughter; SNAP Reacts
For immediate release: April 19, 2022
A defrocked Catholic priest was arrested Saturday night and charged with drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter for killing a resident of Rossmoor. Our hearts go out to the victim's widow, while at the same time we cannot help but remember that her husband is only the latest person to have their life destroyed by this former Diocese of Oakland cleric.
Stephen Kiesle, a registered sex offender as well as a 12+ year resident of Rossmoor himself, was behind the wheel of the car that jumped the curb and killed Curtis Gunn. The defrocked Catholic priest has a long history of sexually abusing boys and girls, including two criminal convictions and numerous lawsuits. The former clergyman is on the Diocese of Oakland's list of abusers. Mr. Kiesle not only killed Mr. Gunn and left Mrs.Gunn mourning, he also destroyed the lives of all of the children he abused and caused untold grief to their loved ones.
Many of those boys and girls would not have been placed in harm's way were it not for incomprehensible decisions made by Catholic officials. Following then Fr. Kiesle's first conviction, he was even permitted to work as a youth counselor at a parish, apparently with the knowledge and permission of the Oakland bishop.
With California's current 3-year civil window for child sexual abuse survivors still open until the end of the year, the Oakland Diocese is currently facing a new round of lawsuits for those hurt by this serial predator. One such action is by the children of Steve Bartko, who are suing the Diocese for wrongful death because their father endured abuse at the hands of Fr. Kiesle when he was a boy. That lawsuit has been brought under Senate Bill 447, passed in 2021 by the California State Legislature to allow people like the Bartko children to carry forward claims for emotional and psychological damages in a wrongful death suit.
In another poor decision by Catholic officials, we also note that St. Anne’s Catholic Church, just outside Rossmoor’s gates, employed clergy accused of child sexual abuse for years. Fr. James A. Clark was already a convicted sex offender when he arrived at Corpus Christi Parish in Fremont, California, where then he hurt “numerous” children. Fr. Clark’s next and last assignment in the Diocese of Oakland was at St. Anne’s. The pastor assigned to St. Anne’s just after Fr. Clark, Fr. John McCracken, was also accused of child sexual abuse. We know that clergy sexual abuse is about power and control, not about sex. In addition to the possibility that there may have been young relatives of Rossmoor residents present at St. Anne's, adults could also have been targeted and put at risk.
We urge anyone who suffered, witnessed, or suspected clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Oakland to make a report to law enforcement. Children and adults are safest when perpetrators are behind bars.
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager (267-261-0578), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]),
(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)