SNAP raises concern over former high ranking priest employee, now current parish pastor
(For Immediate Release June 27, 2022)
SNAP raises concern over former high-ranking priest employee, now current parish pastor
This past week, NBC Bay Area News (Part 1 and Part 2) revealed that at least four prominent Catholic priests in the San Francisco Bay Area were accused of child sexual abuse in lawsuits filed under California's look-back window. Yet contrary to the promises of the 2002 Dallas Charter, all four are still working.
While all four clerics are a serious concern to us, it appears that Msgr. James Pulskamp of the Diocese of Santa Rosa -- accused in a current suit of sexually abusing a child at the Hanna Boys Center -- was in the best position to also cover up accusations of abuse, including perhaps any against him. As we have come to expect, Catholic officials attempt to minimize the gravity of the allegations by saying, "we've never received a complaint about Rev. Pulskamp.” Yet it seems to us that this lawsuit is a complaint and it has now been received.
The monsignor is still working today as a pastor. Bishop Robert Vasa's apparent excuse for this failure to protect today's children is that the Msgr. Pulskamp was "cleared" by "internal review board" investigations.
As advocates for survivors, we know that false allegations are incredibly rare. With the civil window still open, "internal review" seems premature. More lawsuits will no doubt be filed before the window closes on December 31, 2022. Moreover, we also know that internal review boards have "cleared" other accused clergymen only to have additional information lead to the opposite result down the road. One California example is the case of Fr. Eric Swearingen. The priest was placed on leave briefly after he was accused of child sexual abuse in a 2006 lawsuit. However, the Diocese of Fresno subsequently deemed the allegation "not credible" and Fr. Swearingen was allowed to return to ministry. In 2019, Fr. Swearingen was again placed on leave, reportedly based on information that was uncovered during the course of that lawsuit. Ultimately Fr. Swearingen was added to Fresno"s list of accused priests.
Following his time at the Boy's Center, Msgr. Pulskamp rose to become the diocesan chancellor, vicar general, and the chair of its internal review board during the time between 1986 and 2010. It may be no coincidence that Msgr. Pulskamp was not accused until after he was sidelined from these roles by Bishop Vasa. The monsignor worked under Bishops Mark Hurley (1970-1987), John Steinbock (1987-1991), Patrick Zieman (1992-1999), Daniel Walsh (2000-2011), and finally Bishop Vasa (2011- present). As such, he would have been privy to all the cases reviewed following the adoption of the Dallas Charter. The monsignor also had a ringside seat to the 1999 resignation of Bishop Zieman and the 2002 lawsuit accusing him of child sexual abuse, as well as to the delayed reporting of accusations against Fr. Francisco Xavier Ochoa by Bishop Walsh in 2006. During the delay, Fr. Ochoa fled to Mexico. Bishop Walsh had to enter a "pre-filing diversion" program in lieu of being charged with violating a state law requiring that clergy and others report evidence of child sexual abuse to law enforcement.
We hope that parishioners in the Santa Rose Diocese are paying attention and will urge Bishop Vasa to remove Msgr. Pulskamp from ministry immediately. Allowing an accused perpetrator to remain in a position of power and authority may endanger additional young lives, while keeping them out of churches may prevent further cases of abuse. Prematurely dismissing accusations will also discourage other victims from coming forward, fearful that they will not be believed. The faithful should also insist that Bishop Vasa order an independent investigation into all of the abuse cases the monsignor oversaw during his tenure.
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager([email protected], 267-261-0578), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(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)