May 14, 2005

Apology is a long-overdue step toward healing

The Argus

In 1982, when Monsignor Vincent Breen was forced to leave Holy Spirit parish amid a criminal investigation into his sexual abuse of young girls, many parishioners leapt to his defense, attacking the victims, their parents and anyone who believed their stories.

That didn't happen this week, when Bishop Allen Vigneron apologized at the Fremont church for the late monsignor's sexual misconduct.

In 1982, despite a diligent police investigation, Breen never served a day in jail. An agreement was reached with the Diocese of Oakland and the victims' families not to press charges against Breen if he retired, left the area and sought counseling.

It seems highly unlikely such an inappropriate deal would be made today, given the arrest and attempted prosecution of former local priests Stephen Kiesle and Robert Freitas three years ago.

In 1982, diocese officials failed to cooperate fully with the police investigation until detectives threatened to go to the media with the story. A decade earlier, another allegation was withdrawn after attorneys for the diocese "visited" the victim's family. Five years after that, another allegation was investigated by another child molester, the late Monsignor George Francis of Hayward.

Posted by kshaw at May 14, 2005 08:28 AM