April 05, 2005

Bishop: We missed signs of sex abuse

Alameda Times-Star

By Josh Richman, STAFF WRITER

HAYWARD Diocese of Oakland officials testified Monday that the church showed errors in judgment in handling a child-molesting priest.

Bishop Emeritus John Cummins, who led Alameda and Contra Costa counties' Roman Catholics from 1977 to 2003, acknowledged documents show his predecessor knew of allegations against Father Robert Ponciroli in 1975, yet Cummins didn't learn of it until almost two decades later.

"I did not expect sexual abuse by priests to be a frequent occurrence," he testified, but he knows now that seven or eight priests abused children in his diocese during his tenure.

Earlier Monday, former diocese chancellor Father Brian Joyce testified that although he was chairman of the diocese's clergy personnel committee from 1971 to 1979, he knew of no sexual complaints against Ponciroli only complaints of tickling and losing his temper with altar boys. He said he confronted Ponciroli on those matters, but "in no way" suspected molestation.

"My focus was his anger and his intimidating young people," he said. "I was wrong."

Posted by kshaw at April 5, 2005 07:53 AM