Prosecutor in Maryland Gave A Pass to Abusive Priest; SNAP Reacts
(For Immediate Release April 13, 2023)
Sadly, the report out of Maryland that law enforcement officials aided in the cover-up of abuse by the local Archdiocese is not unusual. SNAP chapters from coast to coast can no doubt name other accused clerics who were protected in similar ways.
For example, on the other side of the country, Msgr. Ignatius Vincent Breen was arrested in Fremont, California, after an investigation by police in 1982. Eight young girls had accused the cleric of sexual abuse and were prepared to testify. The Bishop of Oakland at the time, John Cummins, instead cut a deal with the Alameda County district attorney. The priest would move out of the county and enter a counseling program. That was it. No trial, no testimony, no public scandal, no justice.
Msgr. Breen may have had as many as 100 victims. Sixty-one survivors have filed lawsuits accusing the clergyman of child sexual abuse in the California revival window that just closed. We have no doubt that the Oakland Diocese has been quietly resolving other cases for years.
However, this was not the only priest that the Alameda County DA declined to prosecute. The office also chose not to pursue 2017 charges against a Catholic clergyman accused of raping a former seminarian, saying there was not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the encounter was not consensual. However, the civil lawsuit, in that case, settled for $3.5 million a few years later. The Diocese of Oakland said at the time that the accused cleric, Fr. Michael Van Dihn, was on leave and receiving compensation from the Diocese. The Alameda DA at the time that those criminal charges were dropped, Nancy O'Malley, is apparently Catholic. In 2015, she teamed up with Catholic charities to house victims of sex trafficking. Ms. O'Malley explained this unprecedented joint effort at the Oakland Cathedral. We find it hard to believe that her connection to the Diocese of Oakland was not a factor in the decision not to prosecute.
The scandalous information from Maryland shows how the archbishop’s strong lobby-controlled law enforcement. We appreciate the Maryland Attorney General for having the guts to bring this collusion to light, and we implore him to investigate every district attorney in the state to see whether any others may have, or may still be, involved in the cover-up of Catholic sex crimes.
These terrible secrets would still be hidden in the absence of the redacted Maryland Attorney General Grand Jury Report. We wonder what else will be revealed if/when the redactions are removed. In our opinion, the Catholic Church will not become a truly safe place unless and until all secular authorities side with the abused, and not with the Church.
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications ([email protected], 267-261-0578) David Lorenz, SNAP Maryland leader ([email protected], 301-906-9161), Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President ([email protected], 814-341-8386)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)