March 30, 2005

Freitas: Diocese knew of abuse Local priests testify in trial

HAYWARD (CA)
The Argus

By Matt O'Brien, STAFF WRITER

HAYWARD A former Fremont priest, in a videotaped deposition unveiled Tuesday during the first-ever civil clergy abuse trial against the Catholic Diocese of Oakland, said church leaders knew local priests were abusing young parishioners but declined to call the police.

Another former Fremont priest said he was moved to other parishes after he admitted molesting a boy in the mid-1970s.

That priest, the Rev. Robert Freitas who served for more than 30 years at parishes in Fremont, Newark and other East

Bay cities testified in the case in which two former Antioch altar boys are accusing the diocese of failing to protect them from a pedophile priest, the Rev. Robert Ponciroli.

The other priest, the Rev. George Crespin, who also has been accused of sexual abuse, admitted in a videotape played for jurors that "it wasn't our practice" to contact police about sexual abuse allegations.

Crespin was the diocese's former personnel director.

Officials of the diocese, which encompasses Alameda and Contra Costa counties, acknowledge that Ponciroli abused brothers Tom and Bob Thatcher.

Posted by kshaw at March 30, 2005 06:50 AM