February 18, 2005

Parishioners Confront Diocese Over Fate of Accused Pastor

Berkeley Daily Planet

Oakland diocese officials, under tough questioning from a crowd numbering over 250 at Berkeley’s St. Joseph The Worker Church, this week clarified earlier statements that allegations of sexual misconduct against Pastor George Crespin were “credible.”

Church officials explained that the term meant that the allegations were only possibly true, rather than likely, as many of the parishioners had assumed the term meant.

“I apologize on behalf of the diocese if we used that word and gave the wrong impression,” said the Rev. Raymond Breton, the diocese expert on canon law, to loud applause.

Two weeks ago Crespin, 69, abruptly retired from the parish upon learning that a former parishioner had accused him of sexual abuse 30 years prior while Crespin was a priest at Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City. Crespin has worked at St. Joseph’s since 1980, and served as pastor for the last 10 years. The diocese has not revealed the accuser’s identity.

Diocese policy calls for a priest faced with a “credible” allegation of sexual abuse to be placed on administrative leave. Although Breton told parishioners Tuesday that, legally, “credible” meant the accusation had the potential to be true, churchgoers contested that the language had unfairly tainted the investigation.

“It was outrageous,” said Tom Fike, an attorney and longtime St. Joseph’s parishioner. “If any judge had commented that an allegation was credible, that judge would have been recused from the case.”

Posted by kshaw at February 18, 2005 06:32 PM