January 05, 2006

Levada's Secret

San Francisco Weekly

By Ron Russell

Published: Wednesday, January 4, 2006

In April 2004, when questioned under oath by lawyers for victims sexually abused by priests, San Francisco's former archbishop, William J. Levada, was asked about Father Joseph Baccellieri, a parish priest accused of child molestation whom Levada removed from ministry in 1992 while archbishop of Portland. Levada restored Baccellieri to his post two years later.

"I believe there was some allegation that occurred while I was there," he said, when asked about Baccellieri's circumstances. A lawyer for the archbishop quickly interrupted to prevent Levada from saying anything more about the priest. A few months later, in a letter from Levada defending his decision to place Baccellieri back in ministry despite knowing that he had molested -- published in the archdiocesan newspaper Catholic San Francisco -- Levada wrote: "With regard to Father Baccellieri, I removed him from ministry in 1992 when I received an allegation of sexual abuse back in the 1970s."

But Levada wasn't telling all that he knew.

SF Weekly has learned that in 1993 -- the year before the archbishop's controversial decision to restore Baccellieri to his priestly duties -- Levada knew about allegations that the priest had abused not one but three male victims, and that Levada authorized secret payments to each of them after they threatened to make the allegations public in a lawsuit.

Posted by kshaw at January 5, 2006 05:18 PM