Teacher in San Francisco Archdiocese Catholic high school accused of abuse; SNAP appalled that earlier reports were apparently ignored
For immediate release: August 22, 2023
A recent investigation by NBC Bay Area confirmed that the culture of covering up sexual abuse within Catholic institutions was not confined to ordained and vowed clerics, but also extended to lay employees. SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is extremely disturbed that earlier reports about a teacher at a Jesuit high school in the San Francisco Archdiocese appear to have been ignored.
Peter Devine ran the drama program and taught English at St. Ignatius College Preparatory School in San Francisco for nearly 50 years. Last week, a lawsuit accused the popular teacher of aggressively kissing a freshman student in the school theater in 1996. The complaint said that the student was sent into a tailspin and has struggled with self-medication and self-harm since that time.
When the victim reported the abuse to Church officials in 2022, an outside law firm was hired to investigate the accusation. The probe not only sustained the former student’s claim, but it also looked into earlier reports of disturbing behavior by Devine from 2006 and 2020. These reports did not appear to have been adequately addressed.
The school claims that Devine was placed on administrative leave in April, 2022, following the survivor’s report, and that after “receiving the results of the investigation, SI immediately and promptly took appropriate action, and the teacher no longer works at SI.” The teacher claims that he worked at the school through December of 2022, when he “retired.” Whatever the truth, what is truly discouraging is that after red flags were raised about Devine in 2006 and 2020, nothing was done to remove boys from harm’s way until 2022.
We note that former California Governor Jerry Brown is a St. Ignatius alumnus, as well as a former Jesuit seminarian. Brown vetoed earlier versions of window legislation, most recently in 2018. Current California Governor Gavin Newson signed this reform into law when he took office. We find ourselves wondering if Devine could have been stopped sooner had Governor Brown not acted to protect the Catholic Church instead of California children. We cannot help to think of all the young lives that doubtless have been impacted by his failure to act when he was Governor of the state.
Despite often repeated claims that the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is a thing of the past – before the 2002 Dallas Charter --we see here that this is simply not true. Despite often repeated pledges of openness and transparency, we again see here complaints being hidden and ignored, resulting in possible harm to countless boys at this prominent San Francisco Catholic High School.
The former drama and English teacher at St. Ignatius is not the only accused who worked at the school. There are at least three clerics and one other lay employee facing lawsuits filed during the recent revival window. Moreover, our records show over twenty teachers and clerics have been accused of abuse at the school, the earliest one hundred years ago.
We think that St. Ignatius should simply rip off the band aid and come clean about these lawsuits, and any other accusations. The families of the victims, and any survivors themselves, deserve nothing less.
The Jesuit province has released a list of accused, but it does not include lay people employed at the institutions they run. We believe that the Jesuits should also reveal these hidden perpetrators.
Finally, we note that the Archdiocese of San Francisco remains the only Catholic diocese in California that has not released a list of abusers. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has repeatedly declined to divulge the names of the perpetrators in his see, despite requests from survivors. Yet we know that when such lists are published, there are always new names from information in the hierarch’s "secret files." This lack of transparency in San Francisco has kept parishioners and the public unaware of all of the hazards that lurked in the Archdiocese, possibly including Devine. This secrecy needs to end.
Catholic bishops have been promising “zero tolerance” and transparency since 2002, but we are not seeing that in the case of St. Ignatius teacher Peter Devine. Across the United States, Devine is certainly not the only teacher accused of abuse. We have found that 10% to 20% of accusations revealed during a civil window involve lay employees. However, the impact of abuse on a young life is no less horrific when the abuser is a trusted teacher instead of a trusted cleric. It is long past time for Church officials to shift their focus to protecting children, not their image and their bottom line.
CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Treasurer ([email protected], 415-341-6417), Joey Piscitelli, SNAP Volunteer Northwest Leader ([email protected], 925-262-3699), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Interim Executive Director (mmcdo[email protected], 267-261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board of Directors 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)