Two Sacramento Diocese priests accused of child sexual abuse returned to ministry; SNAP is concerned

For immediate release: February 2, 2022

On Monday the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento announced on its website that two clerics accused of child sexual abuse were returned to ministry. According to the statement released by Bishop Jaime Soto, both Fr. Daniel Madigan and Fr. Maurice O'Brien were cleared by the Diocese's Independent Review Board. The  Board "determined that there was not sufficient evidence to indicate abuse had occurred and recommended each priest be returned to ministry immediately." We remain concerned for the safety of parishioners and the public.

 

Our concern arises from our knowledge and experience. We know from studies that false allegations of child sexual abuse are extremely, extremely rare, and that abusers seldom have just one victim.
We also know that Diocesan Review Boards have "cleared" other accused clergymen only to have additional information uncovered later. One California example is the case of Fr. Eric Swearingen. The priest was placed on leave briefly in the early 2000s after he was accused of child sexual abuse in a lawsuit. However, the Diocese 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 the lawsuit. Ultimately Fr. Swearingen was added to Fresno"s list of accused priests.
We believe that returning these two men to ministry was premature. California is in the midst of a three-year civil window that allows survivors to sue their abusers and the institutions that harbored them. That window does not close until December 31, 2022. In the case of Fr. O'Brien, one civil complaint has already been filed accusing the priest of child sexual abuse. That lawsuit has yet to be resolved, so it seems pointless to return him to ministry now when additional lawsuits may be filed or information may be unearthed during the course of the suit already in progress, as happened in Fr. Swearingen's case. While the accusations against Fr. Madigan apparently involved "recent conduct with a minor in Ireland," it would also seem prudent to allow the window to close and see if any additional complaints are made in California before allowing him to work in Church communities.

Our concerns are compounded because, as we said last summer, we believe that the public should always be notified when new allegations are received. The simple truth is that the majority of survivors are no longer active members of the Catholic Church, nor is Diocesan "News" a place where a victim looking for information about a perpetrator is likely to look. We again recommend that Bishop Jaime Soto make all such announcements directly to the media and also include a section on his list of "credibly accused" clergy for such accusations.

It is not clear to us that these two priests can be safely returned to ministry. We encourage anyone who may have been experienced or witnessed child sexual abuse in California, either by these two men or others, to come forward and make a report to local law enforcement and the California Attorney General. We also recommend a consultation with an attorney who specializes in child sex crimes before the civil window closes at the end of this year. The opportunity to hold your abuser accountable in a court of law may not come again.

 

CONTACT: Dorothy Small, SNAP Sacramento Area Leader, ([email protected], 530-908-3676 ), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), 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 more than 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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  • Michael McDonnell
    published this page in Media Statements 2022-02-02 08:51:19 -0600

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