Former altar boy describes aftermath of alleged abuse by Eureka priest

The Press Democrat, California/August 31, 2010

Shame and fear of ridicule kept him quiet about alleged sexual abuse by a Catholic priest in Eureka nearly 30 years ago, a Humboldt County man said Tuesday.

"For a man, there is so much shame involved in saying anything," the 38-year-old man, who declined to give his full name, said in an interview.

"I tried to work past it," said the man, a father who works in law enforcement and as a young boy wanted to become a priest himself. "I just figured it was too late to do anything."

He is one of two Humboldt County men who filed lawsuits last month accusing the Santa Rosa Diocese of fraud and negligence for hiring the Rev. Patrick Joseph McCabe and failing to disclose his sexual misconduct to parishioners in Eureka.

The men, who both served as altar boys, were not identified in the lawsuits. They both allege they were repeatedly fondled by McCabe, now 74, at St. Bernard Church in Eureka in the early 1980s.

McCabe, who was removed from the priesthood in 1988, is in custody at Alameda County Jail pending extradition to Ireland to face charges of molesting six boys from 1973 to 1981.

He was transferred from Dublin, Ireland to the Santa Rosa Diocese in 1983, months after being designated as a pedophile at a church treatment facility in New Mexico, according to a lengthy report on misconduct by Irish priests released last year.

The man, whose first name is Greg, said he was infuriated by news reports that McCabe had been assigned to St. Bernard Parish by former Santa Rosa Bishop Mark Hurley, who was told of McCabe's condition by Irish church officials, according to the report.

"I found it incredibly unconscionable that (church officials) would shift a person from place to place and give him a new set of children to abuse," the man said in a telephone interview arranged by his attorney.

Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh said last month there is no evidence of misconduct in McCabe's file or any indication Hurley, who died in 2001, was aware of it.

The alleged victim also faulted the Santa Rosa Diocese for failing to fulfill the transparency espoused by U.S. bishops in their policy on sexual misconduct adopted in 2002.

"They are still playing cover-up games," the man said. "As far as I'm concerned they are still protecting them."

He was referring to Walsh's refusal to identify nine of the 17 priests who served in the diocese and were accused of child sexual abuse. The other eight clergy were named by victims in various disclosures.

Dan Galvin, attorney for the diocese, said Tuesday there is no consideration being given to releasing the priests' names.

"I will stand on the bishop's prior statement," Galvin said, noting Walsh's previous comment that the nine priests are either dead or no longer serving in the diocese.

Walsh did not return a telephone call on Tuesday.

Victims' advocates say the anonymity leaves an uninformed public vulnerable to the pedophiles' continued crimes.

"Wouldn't you like to know if you were McCabe's neighbor?" said Joseph George, a Sacramento attorney representing both alleged victims.

Naming all accused molesters "could enable victims to understand what happened to them and to seek assistance and/or redress in the courts," said David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

George, who has filed more than 100 sex abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church, said it is likely that revealing abusers' names would prompt more legal claims.

"The assumption would be that the perps have been cloaked in corporate (church) secrecy," George said. The attorney said he is working with other alleged victims of McCabe and intends to file more lawsuits.

The North Coast diocese, which serves 167,000 Catholics from Sonoma County to the Oregon border, has paid about $25 million to settle legal claims by abuse victims.

"Mr. George is entitled to his opinion," Galvin said. "That's all I'm going to say."

Galvin said he still has not seen either of the lawsuits filed last month, and cannot say whether the diocese would fight the claims in court or seek settlements.

In previous cases brought by George, the diocese has succeeded "in working matters out" with a settlement, Galvin said.

The alleged victim said he is not motivated by money.

"The church could put $100 million on the table right now," he said. "That $100 million doesn't buy back what was taken from me."

The man said he has discussed the alleged abuse only in counseling sessions. He said he suffers nightmares and gets "cold chills" driving past the St. Bernard's rectory, where the crimes allegedly occurred.

But had the McCabe case not been made public, the man said he probably would not have come forward.

"I think I would have taken it to my grave," he said.

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