“Serious storms” Lawyers for alleged sexual abuse survivor claim decades of ‘cover up’ and ‘conspiracy’ by California Catholic priests and bishops

By Kyle Martin
Photos by Joe Livernois

A 125-page report released Oct. 2 details hundreds claims of sexual abuse and cover-up, and alleges a conspiracy by every Catholic bishop in California to hide troublesome histories of sexual offenders and victims within every Catholic diocese in California and in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The report, administered by Minnesota-based law firm Jeff Anderson and Associates, was released during a press conference in Los Angeles on the same day last month when Anderson appeared before media with his client and openly-proclaimed clerical sexual abuse survivor, Thomas Emens. The report includes references to several clergymen in the Monterey Diocese, though a diocesan spokesperson said it would be “absurd” to conclude that Catholic bishops are conspiring to conceal child abuse.

Emens is suing the California Catholic Conference, including all of its dioceses and the Archdioceses of Los Angeles and Chicago in  a lawsuit that alleges a former clergyman, Monsignor Thomas Joseph Mohan — now deceased — sexually abused him when Emens between the ages of 10 and 12.

“This lawsuit is really the only opportunity I have at this point in time to find justice, not just for myself, but to bring all the victims that are in the shadows out and to help them moving forward,” Emens said during the press conference. “And don’t underestimate this moment in time. You will remember this moment in time.”

At least five men named in the report  — two priests and three brothers, or friars — are reported to have ties to the Diocese of Monterey in one way or another. All five are alleged to be sexual abusers, though not all cases of abuse were said to have occurred within the Monterey Diocese.

Pages 39 through 125 of the report detail allegations and legal cases against more than 300 clergy members with connections to or inside of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  Two women — both as sisters in their respective clergies — were named in the report amidst separate allegations of sexual abuse, each to at least one child in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The rest named in the report were men.

“The peril is that the  Catholic bishops in California have engaged in such dangerous practices, that there is an has been a grave peril to children in the communities across the state,” Anderson said at the press conference. “And some of those perils, those of predator priests, have been moved out of the Archdiocese of L.A. over the years to various locations.”

In an official statement released last month, the Diocese of Monterey responded to the Emens’ lawsuit, saying that the issues cited appear to be “a matter between the Archdioceses of Chicago and Los Angeles. The allegation that the California Bishops are in a conspiracy to conceal child abuse is simply absurd.”

Of the five cases with ties to Monterey, one includes the movement of Monsignor Charles Fatooh, who was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Monterey in 1985 and was assigned to St. Francis Xavier in Seaside from 1995 to 2005. The report alleges abuse by Fatooh of a student from 1973 to 1974 at Chaminade College Prep in Canoga Park, where he reportedly later became a principal. The report says that. Fatooh is still an active priest at St. Joseph’s in Cayucos.

Another case involving Brother Kevin Dunne, who was reportedly accused of abusing students at a Santa Barbara seminary. The report alleges that Dunne was moved in 2007 to a retreat house near Monterey after a 2004 lawsuit alleged his sexual assault of a student in the early 1970s. Another lawsuit from 2009 says his former Franciscan Friars officials moved Dunne to a Catholic church in Phoenix, Ariz., while aware of a prior alleged rape allegation against him.

A third case involves a Fr. Lynn Richard Caffoe, who is accused in the report of sexually abusing altar boys at his first parish assignment following his 1971 ordination. It further states that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles “knew as early as 1975” about sexual abuse allegations against Caffoe, that he abused at least 15 boys as a clergyman and that he has been “accused of abusing children in every parish, including St. Callistus in what is now the Diocese of Orange.” Caffoe reportedly worked in, and/or lived in Monterey County before being laicized — or dismissed from the priesthood — in January 2006.

A fourth case involving a Brother Frank Luke Dalton accuses Dalton of sexual abuse of a male student when he was a principal at a Catholic high school in Birmingham Michigan. The report says Dalton was transferred to California “after he admitted he had a ‘wet dream’ about the boy.” Dalton, now deceased, has prior history as an educator at several schools around California and further, including his service at Palma High School from 1970 to 1987 and 1988 to 1999.

The final case with ties to Monterey includes a Fr. Gregory Kareta — now deceased — who was allowed to remain within ministry through the Archdiocese of Los Angeles after allegedly admitting he sexually abused a child about 30 years ago, according to the report. The report states Kareta was accused of sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy roughly around 1973 to 1974 in the Diocese of Monterey, and that after being criminally charged in 2002 for “lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14,” although the charges were dropped a year later.

All other cases in the report include the details of other allegations of sexual abuse throughout the country and beyond.

Around the same time of the release of the report and press conference, Archbishop José H. Gomez — whose Los Angeles Archdiocese is at the center of Emens’ lawsuit — traveled to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican to discuss further involvement of youth and women in Catholicism.

“I am looking forward to spending these days praying and reflecting with @Pontifex on the challenges we face in the evangelization of youth. #Synod2018,” Gomez tweeted on Oct. 5.

Several tweets replying to Gomez offered perspective from a few online commenters on the archbishop’s mission, with some offering prayers and others offering less.

“Thanks, Archbishop Gomez, for your leadership! We’re praying for the bishops and others there. Jesus Christ be praised!,” replied @mabrumley.

Not all shared such positive thoughts.

“Among the challenges: a corrupt, decadent Church hierarchy,” @jdmullane tweeted back to Gomez.

At the Oct. 2 press conference in Los Angeles, Anderson said the intent of publicly releasing his organization’s report on abuse by Catholic priests and clergy was “to cause all bishops in California to come clean with the secrets that they know. “

He said those within the Catholic organizations throughout California and the Archdiocese of Chicago should come forward with “the identities of the offenders, and the histories of those offenders that reflect cooperation and complicity by top officials.”

Back in Monterey

On the Sunday after the release of the detailed report, services during noon Mass at San Carlos Cathedral was mostly normal. Several hundred people attended one of three services on Oct. 6, and they heard Father Ron Shirley’s message during his homilies.

“The door is open,” Shirley said. “The door is open to Christ and to this church.”

He was speaking about divorce and spiritual healing. He was offering an invitation to couples dealing with a marital and spiritual break up to come to the church to help remediate their issues.

“Don’t put it off. Don’t carry it in your heart,” Shirley said. “Even if someone at the church has been a pain the the butt to you, let’s talk about it.”

After mass that day, when asked if he would offer the same open invitation for healing and discussion to sexual abuse victims, Shirley said he “already did,” and pointed to his running online blog of his homilies.

Nearly two months ago, on Aug. 25, Shirley delivered a message from his blog and homilies he titled, “Yes we should be talking about Sex Abuse in Church.”

In his blog post, he wrote that the Catholic Church is going through “some serious storms,”  the “most serious” of which is “the sexual misconduct of priests and all the hurt, pain and mistrust that goes along with that unhealthy behavior.”

“I think some are quick to say that we shouldn’t be talking about this topic in church … I believe we should,” Shirley wrote. “It is going on in our Church family and as disgusting and repulsive as it may be, it needs to be faced and named. Along with that, we need to constructively and honestly deal with it … so real healing can take place and trust can be slowly restored.”

In its official statement released last week, the Diocese said that the allegations outlined in the Emens complaint “involve matters that occurred forty years ago and well before the promulgation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002. They also significantly predate the Diocese of Monterey’s Safe Environment Program and all of the safeguards that are contained in our policies.  As we have previously reported, the Diocese of Monterey has in place strong policies and procedures to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults under our care.”

‘They’re not God’

When asked about their knowledge of sexual abuse allegations against the Diocese of Monterey, several Catholics attending noon Mass at San Carlos Cathedral in Monterey were not specifically aware of recent claims made by Emens’ lawsuit.

Sabino Morera, a Monterey resident and San Carlos attendee, said without his faith, he doesn’t know how he would have been able to handle the recent trauma he felt in the recent death of a family member.

“I think [my faith] is actually stronger,” he said after Mass on Oct. 6. “On Sundays, I feel nourished.”

When asked about his thoughts on sexual abuse allegations against the Diocese of Monterey, he would not try to justify the actions of priests or clergy.

“That tells me that there’s not just one truth, not just one church to believe in,” Morera said. “When I think about that, I think about priests as being human beings, and human beings are weak.”

He added that he believes “only God can judge them.”

Since the release of the Anderson and Associates report, the Diocese of San Jose released the names of 15 credibly accused priests with allegations of sexual abuse which date back decades. This includes an Arthur Harrison, who is “accused of sexually abusing children between 1974 and 1976 that he met years earlier at St. Frances Cabrini parish in San Jose, as well as at Our Lady of Loretto Parish in Novato in 1961,” according to the Mercury News. A victim reportedly revealed to the Mercury last week that “she had been repeatedly molested in the 1970s at Harrison’s cabin in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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Kyle Martin

About Kyle Martin

Kyle Martin is Fil-Am multimedia journalist born in San Jose, CA who grew up mostly in North Texas around Dallas. After driving his 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee alone cross-country, through the circles of Hell known as the Texas Panhandle and the bottom half of Wyoming, he is now based in the Bay Area. He has experience writing and photographing in Texas, California and elsewhere. Send news tips and restaurant recommendations to kylemartinmedia@gmail.com.