SNAP Stands with Tim Stier, Priest-of-Integrity
It is ironic that a priest who showed integrity has been defrocked for taking a stand for what he believes is just, while priests who molested children were hidden, paid and never forced to leave the church. By defrocking Tim Stier, what message does Oakland Bishop Mike Barber think he is sending?
In 2005 Tim Stier turned down a parish assignment when he became convinced his bishop at the time, Allen Vigneron, was paying lip service to victims. Vigneron is now the Archbishop of Detroit, and like Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco, ran the Oakland diocese after the disastrous reign of Bishop John Cummins.
Vigneron published his first list of accused priests in 2004, a paltry 12 names that barely qualifies as a public listing. In 2008, he doubled it to 24, which we now know was a misleading head fake. Not included on that 2008 list were five of Stier's colleague pastors who had molested children. These men were active while Tim was a priest and several were still alive in 2008 when the information would have been useful for public safety.
Vigneron's 2008 lie wasn't revealed until 2019 when Bishop Barber published a list of 45. That list also was short. Just after Barber published his list, he made a claim that "no abuse had occurred since 1988." Shortly thereafter, David Mendoza Vela was arrested and now is incarcerated. Then, Alex Castillo was investigated and fled. Then, George Alengaden fled his arraignment, and Michael Van Dihn was arrested for raping a seminarian to whom Barber paid a $3.5 million settlement. Depositions from that civil case revealed allegations against Ricardo Chavez and Luis Lopez. Both were left in ministry despite the statements under oath. With the exception of Vela, none of those credibly accused abusers are on Oakland’s list.
In 2019, the Franciscan order published a list that showed at least 20 priests from its province worked in Oakland, and the records it revealed showed many abused in Oakland. Barber was forced to update his list, but only by the bare minimum.
SNAP sent Bishop Barber its list of 165 later in 2019. Many of those men are still alive. To date, Bishop Barber has not returned our phone calls. A couple of men on that list are now revealed by litigation to have abused in Oakland. Notably, Clifton Etienne is on our list and came to Oakland for just two years. He now has an Oakland victim suing the Oakland diocese.
Clerical abuse victims generally need 40 years from the abuse event to report (Etienne's victims alleges 1981 abuse, nearly exactly forty years ago). That means that other victims of Castillo, Van Dihn, Vela, Alengaden, the hidden five and any others not on the current list won't be coming forward for years and decades. When many in Oakland were silent about this ongoing problem, Tim Stier chose not to be. In response, he has been punished.
We applaud Tim Stier's courage and integrity. We remain very concerned for Oakland diocese faithful and recommend they keep their children close. We hope that Tim’s example will inspire others to put children and survivors first.
CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Treasurer ([email protected]), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Zach Hiner, 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)