Mother of woman abused by Napa priest whose record was kept hidden speaks out

Santa Rosa, Sacramento Catholic Dioceses go public about priest accused in 2015 and later convicted

The Santa Rosa Diocese has gone public about a Napa County Carmelite priest first accused of abusing a Rocklin girl in 2015 and later convicted of felony molestation.


In the eight-plus years since Napa County Carmelite Priest Mark Kristy was first accused of improper conduct with a girl at her Sacramento-area home, he has been arrested, convicted of a felony, jailed for six months and sentenced to five years of probation that he’s now serving in St. Helena.

His name, face, address and the legal description of his more-than-20-year-old crime — lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 — are duly posted on California’s Megan’s Law website, where sex registrants convicted of qualifying crimes are cataloged.

But until recent weeks, church officials made no effort to notify the public or parishioners about his presence in the community, despite the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “commitment to transparency and openness” in the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children & Young People.

Kristy’s name did not appear on the list of “credibly accused priests” kept by the sprawling Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa, in which he’s spent much of his priesthood.

He was not listed either by the Diocese of Sacramento, in whose boundaries the sexual abuse occurred beginning in 2001 and whose officials were alerted 14 years later.

Local members of the Discalced Carmelites, in whose Oakville House of Prayer he long resided, did not immediately respond to Press Democrat inquiries seeking information about Kristy, 71. Unlike some other Catholic orders, they have no list of accused priests of their own.

But in December, an unusual post appeared under announcements on the Santa Rosa Diocese’s website warning local Catholics to steer clear of the priest.

“Father Mark Kristy O.C.D., is reportedly living in the Diocese of Santa Rosa without his Superior's permission or approval,” it said. “Under no circumstance is he to be allowed to exercise any form of ministry in or for the Diocese. The faithful are advised that they are not to participate in any way with any priestly activities which he might illicitly offer. Concerns are to be brought to the attention of the Chancery.”

Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa told The Press Democrat earlier this month the announcement was triggered by word third-hand from someone who had noticed on the Megan’s Law website that Kristy had moved into a private home and was no longer under the watchful eye of his brethren at the Oakville monastery. On Friday, he said he was informed Kristy had left the monastery in January 2023.

He said Kristy had been restricted from all ministry since December 2015, when the bishop learned through an attorney with the Sacramento Diocese that accusations had been raised.

Last year, Vasa reinforced instructions that Kristy not minister in the diocese. He said he was waiting for the Carmelite order to apprise him of the priest’s status before taking it further.

But when it comes to protecting the community, “I am responsible.”

Yet it was only this month that the Santa Rosa Diocese added Kristy to their published list of accused priests. Kristy’s name also appeared this week on the Sacramento Diocese list after The Press Democrat raised questions about his status there.

Vasa, the Santa Rosa bishop, said he had, until recently been “trying diligently to stay in my lane,” given the Carmelites’ jurisdiction in the matter.

“Since the Carmelites do not seem to have their own list, I could not realistically act until, either they formally and publicly named him or his name became public is some other fashion, which it did on Megan’s list,” he said via email Friday.

Vasa said he did his best to adhere to “the spirit” of transparency when the church’s organizational structure permitted it.

“That was my every intention,” he said. “I’m not trying to hide anything.”

Yet word of Kristy’s record and the lack of public notice has stirred frustration and anger among church critics and watchdogs, particularly the nonprofit Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

“He was arrested and convicted, and neither Sacramento nor Santa Rosa said a word,” said Bay Area resident Dan McNevin, treasurer for the organization’s national board. “The danger in this is stunning. How can a bishop claim to be transparent and for the survivor when they won't publicize an arrest?”

“They should have said something about it in 2015, when they first found out about it — if that’s when they first found about it,” said Melanie Sakoda, SNAP’s survivor support coordinator. “That’s almost 10 years now. This is 2024, and that’s a long time to sit on something like this.”

An adherent of the Latin mass trained as a psychotherapist, Kristy was not assigned to any particular church but could be invited to say mass at individual parishes, and did so, frequently in the Sacramento Diocese while he remained in good standing. He also said mass at the monastery.

Details about his offenses in 2001, the family’s 2015 report, and Kristy’s autumn 2021 arrest and subsequent conviction are scarce.

In part that’s because he was investigated and prosecuted in Placer County, took a plea deal in February 2022 and was already on probation when his supervision was transferred to Napa County in June 2023.

His case no longer appears in the public records for Placer County courts, and court, probation and district attorney’s personnel there say the probation transfer means it’s no longer their case, so they no longer have jurisdiction.

Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley said her office is an uninvolved party in the Placer County case, unless Kristy were to violate probation. A call to county probation was not returned.

Limited notes in the Napa County court’s public online file refer to a September 2004 felony charge for lewd and lascivious conduct but don’t say when Kristy was arrested or first charged.

Almost childlike in his presence and seemingly naive about the severity of his situation, Kristy tried to fill in some of the puzzle pieces himself during a Press Democrat reporter’s unannounced visit to the rural Meadowood Lane home where he rents a room from a retired priest. That home is where he provides Latin mass in a makeshift dining room chapel for what he says are maybe three or four adherents.

But his version of events departs substantially from that of the victim’s mother, who befriended Kristy during weekends when he would say Latin mass at the church she attended.

She described what she and her husband viewed as “an overgrown child” who would enjoy meals and stay overnight when he was in town, playing with her six children but taking a special interest in her 10-year-old daughter, the second-oldest.

She said they never imagined he was being improper with her until 2015, when the woman, a devout Catholic, attended a training session about protecting the young and recognized what was described in the course as the kind of unique, guarded relationship Kristy had formed with her daughter. Among other things, the girl’s father once saw the priest and his daughter in the same sleeping bag before ordering them out, never imagining harm had been done.

When his wife raised concerns in 2015, the husband confronted his daughter, by then a young woman, beginning a process that eventually would lead to criminal charges for conduct over a three-or-four-year period before the family cut ties with him.

But the damage already was done. Her daughter, she said, “is devastated” and the impact on the rest of the family “huge. Huge.”

She also fears there were other victims.

Kristy, though mostly unable to provides dates or specifics, said the accusation arose from a time in 2001 when he was at the family’s Rocklin home and he and all the kids slept on the floor.

He said he was next to the girl and awoke in the night, suddenly realizing that for about 10 seconds he had unwittingly violated her person, though he wouldn’t specify how. He said he pulled away when he recognized what was happening and addressed the incident as if it were an accident.

Kristy said he was interviewed by law enforcement in 2016, after the girl’s family made a report, and was told he was guilty of “poor judgment and lack of prudence.”

But he followed advice from the Carmelite Order that he leave the area and go tend to elderly parents in Southern California.

He was there in late 2021, caring for his father, who died while Kristy was jailed, when Placer County authorities arrived one morning with an arrest warrant and returned him to Auburn to face charges for lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. He was held in jail, he said, in lieu of $1 million bail.

The Sacramento Diocese posting says religious leaders there referred the case to police and that accusations included conduct from 2001 to 2004.

After a period during which he contracted COVID-19 in jail, he was told by a public defender he could plead to two of four charges, misdemeanors, that he acknowledged and could thus get out of jail in four months time, with credit for time served. “The other counts were things that never really happened,” Kristy said.

When the attorney told him the district attorney was demanding he plead to a felony, he couldn’t understand how that applied to what had transpired but just wanted to get out of custody, so he agreed. His attorney also had warned him that due to COVID-19 a trial could be delayed by up to two years and, even then, a jury would prejudge a priest accused of molestation as guilty.

That was in February 2022. The court record said he pleaded “no contest” to one felony charge, though Kristy said he pleaded guilty and was unaware of the other option.

Either way, “I just didn’t realize what the snowballing effect of having a felony would be,” he said.

Kristy said he never returned to the monastery after his release but stayed at a few different places in Auburn and Santa Rosa before landing in St. Helena. He said he is attending counseling as a condition of his probation and believes he can have his case expunged under a section of the California Penal Code, based on a notice he received in Placer County, even though the count he was charged with is not eligible.

“I’m trying to get myself back to some kind of respect,” Kristy said.

He’s also trying to hold onto his Carmelite ties and its $500-a-month stipend. He said the order recently informed him he could resign and not have to face dismissal.

An attorney for the order, Will Lemann, said Friday that the tiny order had not had the resources or the need before Kristy’s case to publicly identify offenders. And he said it did not appear Kristy was predatory in his behavior in the way that some other priests with many victims had been.

But he said Kristy had been taken out of the ministry immediately upon being accused “and without faculties for any priestly duties since this occurred.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan (she/her) at 707-521-5249 or [email protected]. On X (Twitter) @MaryCallahanB.

You can read the article at its source here.


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