Press Room

Press Release July 22, 2019

Bishop Vasa's Letter to Congregations July 21st

Bishop Vasa Additional Infortmation / Narrative 7-22-2019

Diocese of Santa Rosa – OFFICIAL APPOINTMENTS for 2019

Reverend Michael Culligan - Retiring from Active Pastoral Ministry effective Monday, June 24, 2019.
Reverend Denis O’Sullivan - Retiring from Active Pastoral Ministry effective Monday, July 1, 2019.
Reverend Lou Nichols - Retiring from Active Pastoral Ministry effective Monday, June 24, 2019.
Reverend Michaelraj Philominsamy - Pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Santa Rosa effective Monday, July 1, 2019.
Reverend Fergal McGuinness, JV - Pastor of Saint Apollinaris Parish in Napa, effective June 24, 2019.
Reverend Balaswamy Govindu - Pastor of Saint Philip the Apostle Parish, Occidental and in charge of Saint Teresa of Avila Mission, effective June 24, 2019.
Reverend Carlos Ortega - Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Windsor effective Monday, July 1, 2019.
Reverend Gabriel Barrera - Parochial Administrator of Saint Aloysius Parish, Point Arena and in charge of Mary Star of the Sea Mission, Gualala, effective July 1, 2019.
Reverend Gerard Gormley - Pastor of Saint James Parish, Petaluma effective June 24, 2019
Reverend Monsignor Daniel Whelton, VG - Temporary Parochial Administrator of Saint Sebastian Parish, Sebastopol effective May 15, 2019 through June 24, 2019 and Temporary Parochial Administrator of Saint James Parish, Petaluma effective June 24, 2019 until Father Gerard Gormley recovers from surgery.
Reverend Mario Valencia - Parochial Administrator of Saint Sebastian Parish, Sebastopol effective June 24, 2019
Reverend Eliseo Avendaño - Pastor of Saint Mary Immaculate Parish, Lakeport and in charge of Saint Peter Mission, Kelseyville, effective June 24, 2019
Reverend Daniel Roa - Parochial Administrator of Saint Joan of Arc Parish and in charge of Holy Family Mission, Rutherford, effective June 24, 2019.
Reverend Robert Torczynski - Parochial Administrator of Saint Anthony of Padua Parish, Mendocino and in charge of Blessed Sacrament Mission, Elk, effective June 24, 2019.
Reverend Jeffrey Keyes - Chaplain to Sonoma State Newman Center effective June 24, 2019.
Reverend Ramon Pons - Temporarily released to serve in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, effective June 24, 2019.
Reverend David Jenuwine - Parochial Vicar of Saint Vincent de Paul Parish, Petaluma effective June 24, 2019.
Reverend John Boettcher - Parochial Vicar of Saint Eugene Cathedral, Santa Rosa effective June 24, 2019.
Reverend Peter Reddy - Parochial Administrator of Saint Mary of the Angels Parish, Ukiah and in charge of Saint Elizabeth Mission, Philo and Saint Francis Mission, Hopland, effective July 1, 2019.
Reverend Anthony Madanu, SVD - Parochial Vicar of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Santa Rosa effective Monday, July 1, 2019.
Reverend Jose Isaac Alejandro de la Cruz - Parochial Vicar of Saint John the Baptist Parish, Napa, effective Monday, July 1, 2019.
Reverend Aaron DePeyster - Parochial Vicar of Saint Apollinaris Parish in Napa, effective June 24, 2019.
(Pending) - Parochial Vicar Saint Mary of the Angels Parish, Ukiah, Saint Elizabeth Mission, Philo and Saint Francis Mission, Hopland.

Bishop Vasa's Stetement describing Santa Rosa Diocese's Victims Compensation Program

Here is the Newswire link for the six California Catholic Dioceses Announcement of a New Compensation Program for Abuse Victims

Additional information regarding the Diocese of Santa Rosa’s outreach to victims of childhood sexual abuse

Q1 Are any priests who are credibly accused of sexual abuse still in public ministry?

A1 No priest with a credible accusation of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult is currently serving in public ministry in the Diocese of Santa Rosa. In keeping with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, when a member of the clergy is found to be guilty of a crime against children or young people, he is permanently removed from ministry.

Q2 What are the criteria for inclusion on the Diocese of Santa Rosa list?

A2 The names on the Diocesan list are included for a variety of reasons. First, the names of those clergy who, in the judgment of law enforcement or the Diocesan Review Board, have a substantiated claim against them are listed.

            In those instances involving a claim of an historical nature when it is not possible to engage law enforcement to help determine criminal guilt, the benefit of the doubt is given to the victim. Thus, the inclusion of a name here, while not proving guilt, is intended to prove the Church’s desire to support victims.

            The names of deceased clergy are included when there is an allegation on record.

            The names of clergy listed on the sites of other Dioceses or Religious Order are listed when those men had some connection with or time of service in the Diocese of Santa Rosa. These names are included even when the Diocese has no record of any local accusations against them. In these cases the Diocese relies entirely upon the list where the name is found.

            The list contains the names of those against whom accusations have been made while they served in the Diocese of Santa Rosa as well as those, with no allegations here. In many cases, due to the passage of time, a criminal investigation is not possible.

            On the other hand, when a report has been received and is determined by civil authorities to be Unfounded or Unsubstantiated the subject of such a report is not named. In such instances, the Diocese carefully evaluates the matter with the Diocesan Review Board to determine if the individual involved presents any possible risk to children or young people and acts accordingly.

Q3 Why didn’t the Diocese deal with this much sooner?

A3 Victims of child sexual abuse often take many years to come forward. Many of the claims made against the men on the Diocesan list were received after an accused priest was deceased or after the criminal statute of limitations had passed. In those instances, a state criminal investigation is impossible. Since the goal of the Diocese today is healing our Protocol gives a substantial benefit of the doubt to the victim.

Q4 Are any further actions being considered?

A4  The Diocese has tried most diligently to be very thorough in generating a list of the accused. As other Dioceses and Religious Communities release names the Diocese of Santa Rosa will be vigilant to assure that anyone on those newly revealed lists who has an association with the Diocese of Santa Rosa will be added to the Diocese of Santa Rosa list. Further, as new allegations surface, once the allegation is determined to be credible, names will be added.

Q5 Is possession of child pornography considered abuse?

A5 Yes, absolutely. One of the names listed came to our attention precisely because of a child pornography related conviction.  The newly Revised Diocesan Policy for the Protection of Children and Young People states: In this Policy every reference to child abuse includes any illegal activity related to minors including the use or possession of child pornography.

Q6 The list indicates that approximately 25 priests were accused of having abused children while serving in the Diocese. How many total victims have come forward in the Diocese?

A6 The records have been searched and the names of approximately 100 victims of child sexual abuse in the Diocese have been discovered. This is a shocking number and they represent a major portion of the reason for the present disclosures. More than half of these victims (63) suffer as a result of the actions of 4 priests. While even a single act of abuse of a minor is unacceptable, the actions of these four have done more harm to children than all of the other priests of the entire Diocese combined.

            It must be remembered that 14 of the clergy included on the Diocese of Santa Rosa list are named because there were accusations against them either before or after they served in the Diocese of Santa Rosa. For these the list notes: No known accusations in the Diocese of Santa Rosa. If accusations are received regarding these priests then this notation will be amended.

Q7 What Policies does the Church have to keep children safe today?

A7 The Catholic Dioceses of the United States including the Diocese of Santa Rosa have adopted a zero-tolerance policy regarding instances of sexually abusive conduct involving a member of the clergy and a minor. These same polices apply to lay employees and volunteers.

            In 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing claims of sexual abuse of minors. The Charter includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability and prevention of future acts of abuse. This Charter serves as the basis for our own Diocesan Policy.

            The Diocese screens any priest who comes to serve, even temporarily, in the Diocese of Santa Rosa. Sometimes this is as simple as a Letter of Good Standing from the Religious Community or Diocese from which the cleric comes. Sometimes, if the cleric stays for more than one month, a more thorough screening is required. Every priest who serves in the Diocese must have his fingerprints on file and complete the Diocese mandated Safe Environment Training. These same requirements bind all Diocesan, Parish and School employees and volunteers who have contact with children.

Q8 Are preventative measures making a difference?

A8 According to recent data the number of alleged offenses reported since 2004 are dramatically different from the number reported from 1965 to 1990. In those years there were as many as 300 allegations per year. From 2005 to 2017 the annual average is 17 (Source: America Media: A Jesuit ministry). While a number of other factors may affect this number it is reasonable to attribute a major portion of the reduction of accusation to the preventative measures taken by the Church.

Q9 How does the Diocese determine when to report an allegation of child sexual abuse?

A9 The policy of the Diocese is to report every accusation of child abuse to state authorities and to allow the proper law enforcement agencies to conduct suitable investigations. Civil authorities follow their own protocols and policies. The Diocese stands ready to cooperate fully in law enforcement investigations. If your abuser is deceased a report is not made to Law Enforcement since there is no one to prosecute for the crime. However, when you contact the Diocese with an allegation of abuse by a priest who is now deceased, a report is provided to Sonoma County District Attorney.

Q10 What happens when a claim is received against a priest still in ministry?

A10 When a claim involving the abuse of a minor is made against a priest, employee or volunteer connected with the Diocese the allegation is immediately reported -- verbally and in writing -- to law enforcement. This is primarily the responsibility of the person observing or receiving the first complaint of the abuse but the Diocese is ready to assist in assuring that a report is properly filed. The Diocese fully cooperates throughout the investigation. Upon receipt of a claim involving sexual misconduct with a minor, the accused is suspended from ministry pending the outcome of the investigation unless such an action would interfere with the law enforcement investigation.

            If law enforcement finds sufficient reason to pursue a criminal investigation, the Diocese will initiate its own investigation only after the one conducted by law enforcement concludes. If law enforcement decides not to pursue a criminal investigation then the Diocese will still pursue its own internal investigation to determine if some form of ecclesial sanction is suitable.

            The results of the Diocese’s internal investigation are presented to the Diocesan Review Board. The members of this Board include professionals from the fields of psychology, law enforcement and human resources. The Review Board helps determine if a claim is credible and makes its recommendation to the Bishop. No one who has a substantiated claim of sexually abusing a minor or vulnerable adult is allowed to remain in public ministry.

            Throughout this process, the Diocese is very proactive in offering pastoral and therapeutic services to the victim.

Q11 What happens when a new victim comes forward accusing a priest who is deceased or after the civil statute of limitations has expired?

A11 The answer to this question is the reason for our Victim Compensation Protocol. While neither criminal prosecution nor civil lawsuit is not possible, the Diocese still wants to fulfill its obligation to make amends for past harm.  The Protocol is intended to be pastoral and healing. By way of this program we hope to further assure victims of childhood sexual abuse that: we have heard you, we believe you, we affirm you in your trauma and we want to help with a healing process.

         In order to do this we need to engage with you in a process which provides us with some required information so that we can discern together what form this healing process should take.

Q12 What is the role of the Diocesan Review Board?

A12 The Diocesan Review Board helps the Bishop determine the credibility of claims and is also proactively engaged in helping to determine improvements to Policies of the Diocese regarding the protection of children, including this Protocol.

            In terms of this Protocol, the Review Board will be convened to review the Information provided about the abuse suffered. They will then help determine what actions should be taken by the Diocese in regard to providing healing to those abused. The Victim Assistance Coordinator also consults with the Diocesan Review Board in the course of continued contact with victims about the type of support which should be offered.

Q13 Why didn’t the Church do something about this 40 years ago?

A13 Recognition of the nature, frequency and damage of abuse is developing both in the Church and in society. One example stands out. State laws continue to change. The first mandatory child abuse reporting law in California was enacted in 1963. That law applied only to physicians. Over time the list of mandated reporters was expanded. At the same time there was a broadening of the concept of reportable maltreatment to include sexual abuse, emotional maltreatment, and neglect.  Prior to 1980, in California, these reporting laws applied only to physicians.

            Clergy were added to the list of mandated reporters in California in 1997.

            This expansion of Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Laws manifests a deepening recognition that children are in need of adult protection. It also implies a growing recognition of the dramatic negative impact which this abuse has on children.

            The failure of the Church to recognize just how damaging clergy abuse was to a child in the 1960’s or the 1980’s was not due solely to the blindness of bishops. Societal recognition of the seriousness of this damage continues to evolve.

Q14 What do you hope to accomplish by this new Protocol?

A14 The Church recognizes with great shame the extent of abuse which some of Her priests have perpetrated and recognizes Her duty to make amends. While lawsuits are one method of seeking justice, as a Church, we believe that healing can better be accomplished by working together.

            The call for greater transparency has been heard by the Church and the Church has responded. The perception that the Church is sheltering abusers of children needs to come to an end. Such a perception harms the Church, it further distresses victims, it harms the People of God and it harms our priests. This Protocol takes us to the next step.

            We recognize that the People of God expect and deserve not only greater transparency but also greater compassion. We hope that our transparency and this Protocol will help victims and their families realize that he Church is serious about being a source of healing as it has, often unwittingly, been the source of harm. Fuller accountability of the Church means not only listing names, but also reaching out to victims for engagement in the healing process.

Q15 Why didn’t the Diocese of Santa Rosa contract with a Professional Firm for this outreach?

A15 The Diocese of Santa Rosa carefully considered the proposal which was made to all the Dioceses of California and determined, in consultation with the Diocesan Review Board and the Diocesan Finance Council, that the number of victims we anticipate coming forward did not justify the enormous expense of a Professional Firm. The Firm would rely on the Diocese to generate the names of prospective contacts and would then make the necessary contacts. Since many victims associated with the Diocese of Santa Rosa are already known to our Victim Assistance Coordinator, the involvement of a disinterested third party did not seem to us to be a good use of limited resources.

Read Bishop Vasa's column for the May North Coast Catholic (click here)

Announcement March 1st 2019

New Priests for the Diocese

Two new priests came to the Diocese of Santa Rosa in February to exercise their priestly ministry. Reverend Rowell MOP from the Philippines, is a Religious priest of the Missionaries of the Poor and Reverend Sudhakar Mannam from India, is a Diocesan priest of the Diocese of Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India. Bishop Vasa made the following assignments:

Reverend Rowell Gumalay MOP as the Parochial Vicar of the parishes of St. Bernard’s and Sacred Heart, Eureka, CA,  effective February 22, 2019.

Reverend Sudhakar Mannam as the Parochial Vicar of St. Francis Solano parish, Sonoma, CA, effective March 1, 2019.



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