Problem priest moved from Ireland to Bay Area

The San Francisco Chronicle/August 11, 2010

A former Catholic priest who worked in the North Bay and Sacramento in the 1980s before quietly settling down in Alameda has been charged with sexually assaulting boys in his native Ireland. Such allegations, The Chronicle has learned, may have prompted his initial assignment to the United States two decades ago.

Patrick Joseph McCabe, 74, surrendered on July 30 to U.S. authorities, who are seeking to extradite him back to Ireland. An attorney handling his extradition said Tuesday that the evidence against him is "terrible" and is seeking to free him from Alameda County's Santa Rita Jail to allow him to deal with chronic health conditions.

The Irish national police said McCabe disputed the allegations, but admitted to having sexual feelings for young boys. He faces nine counts of indecent assault and one count of attempted indecent assault in connection with alleged incidents from 1973 to 1981 in Dublin, Ireland, according to the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco.

Little about McCabe is known, and his Alameda neighbors said they were shocked to learn of the charges. But McCabe's journey from Dublin to California appears to be the subject of a lengthy chapter in a well-known report the Irish government sponsored last year on abuse by priests and its cover-up by the Archdiocese of Dublin.

Details identical

In a recent Associated Press article, the cleric in the report was referred to as only the "unidentified priest." The name is redacted in the report written by Judge Yvonne Murphy - it's known as the Murphy Report - but its details are identical to McCabe's known history.

"This case encapsulates everything that was wrong with the archdiocesan handling of child sexual abuse cases," the report concludes.

The report said the Archdiocese of Dublin sent the priest to the United States in 1982 amid complaints of abuse from young boys and concerns about his sexual impulses, for which he was given drug therapies including Depo-Provera. He was first sent to New Mexico, to a program for sexual abusers, and diagnosed as a pedophile, the report said.

Then, a year later, the archbishop of Dublin persuaded now-deceased Bishop Mark Hurley of Santa Rosa to allow the priest to run St. Bernard Catholic Parish in Eureka. Hurley removed him in 1985 after "stories of inappropriate conduct began to emerge," the report said.

The report said the priest then wrote a letter to the Dublin Archdiocese stating, "I have grown away from the problems that entered my life surprisingly and abruptly some years ago. ... Though my dealings with young people has to be monitored and controlled I feel that I can effectively minister to them."

According to a Catholic Church directory, McCabe was a member of the clergy at St. Elizabeth Church in Guerneville in 1986.

The Murphy Report states that the priest returned to Dublin in May 1986 and applied to the Diocese of Los Angeles, where he was not offered work.

In November of that year, McCabe landed in Sacramento, according to the report and a spokesman for the Diocese of Sacramento. The spokesman, Kevin Eckery, said Tuesday that McCabe was "more of a student," studying to be a hospital chaplain and occasionally filling in at churches for priests who were on vacation.

Three months later, Eckery said, the Sacramento Diocese "was contacted by the Archdiocese of Dublin to say (McCabe) had been accused of sexually abusing young boys." Then-Bishop Francis Quinn immediately removed McCabe from the educational program, stripped him of his ability to perform church work, and told him to leave town within two weeks, Eckery said.

No abuse complaints

No complaints of sexual abuse were made against McCabe in Sacramento, Eckery said.

The Murphy Report states that the priest returned to Ireland again, then lined up a job in Stockton working with the homeless - a job not affiliated with the Catholic Church.

"The bishops (in Ireland) decided to let him go to the USA," the Murphy Report said. "They, in effect, set him loose on the unsuspecting population of Stockton, California. There is no record that they notified the bishop of Stockton of his arrival."

A critic of the Catholic Church's handling of the priest abuse scandal said Tuesday that the McCabe case was more proof that "the brotherhood is more powerful than concern for the safety of children."

"It's amazing how these people are shuffled around internationally," said Terry McKiernan of Waltham, Mass., the president of, an online archive of the scandal. "The Dublin Archdiocese has a problem priest and they need to get rid of him, and they are willing to put children at risk to achieve that."

McCabe told Irish police investigators that he worked as a priest in California from 1983 to 1988, the same year he left the priesthood, according to court documents.

Quiet life in Alameda

In Alameda, McCabe lived a quiet life. Owing to his small stature, he was known as the "leprechaun of the neighborhood" on a quiet cul-de-sac overlooking one of Alameda's finger-like lagoons.

His two-story, wood-frame home on Walnut Street has lava rocks and a fountain out front. Neighbors said the white-haired McCabe liked to point out ducks swimming in the adjacent lagoon and practiced meditative martial arts in a driveway overlooking the water.

"He's a lovely person. I'm surprised," said neighbor Catalina Madrinan, 35. "You really don't know what's in a person's past. How would you know?"

McCabe spent much of the past two decades as a social worker for the elderly until he recently retired because of failing health. Officials at Waters Edge Lodge on Island Drive confirmed Tuesday that McCabe had worked at the center for at least a decade, helping to lead seniors in recreational activities.

"He lived a peaceful life," said his attorney in the extradition matter, David Cohen.

Cohen said Irish investigators came to the United States in 2007 and questioned McCabe for three days about the abuse allegations, giving him no food or water and no access to an attorney. Cohen attacked the credibility of McCabe's accusers.

He said his client should be released because he survived a quintuple bypass, suffers from diabetes and has an enlarged prostate. "He's deteriorating in jail," Cohen said. McCabe is incarcerated on a no-bail hold.

Federal prosecutors said the jail where McCabe is housed can adequately monitor McCabe's health problems. They described the former priest as a vigorously healthy retiree who practiced yoga four times a week and had recently taken up qigong, a Chinese healing art.

During his interview at the Alameda Police Station, Irish investigators said, McCabe did not admit abusing anyone but said he had a fetish for formal shirts and ties worn by young boys, saying, "I got satisfaction from an embrace and being close to a boy."

Facing 10 years if convicted

Irish investigators first filed warrants for McCabe's arrest in October. He faces 10 years in prison if convicted.

In court documents, Irish authorities said McCabe met two of his alleged victims, who ranged from ages 11 to 14, at a Catholic school in Dublin where he taught. In two other incidents, the alleged abuses took place inside McCabe's home, which adjoined a cathedral.

In one case, Irish police allege McCabe introduced himself to a boy who had just attended confession, then sat down to say his prayers. According to court documents, McCabe then forced himself on the boy in an adjoining hallway.

The first official claims of abuse against McCabe surfaced in 1988, after his alleged victims became adults and approached authorities. The U.S. attorney's office said McCabe had already left Ireland, and prosecutors there "declined to pursue a case because McCabe was unavailable for police interview."

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