Press Room

PRESS RELEASE Santa Rosa Diocese 

Bishop Robert Vasa  – October 2, 2018

            A lawsuit has been filed against all of the Dioceses of California, as well as the Archdiocese of Chicago, alleging a conspiracy to commit fraud. The lawsuit was filed by a man who alleges that he was abused almost 40 years ago in another Diocese, not the Diocese of Santa Rosa. The Diocese of Santa Rosa is included in this lawsuit. In referring to Santa Rosa, the lawsuit points out that in 2003, the Diocese of Santa Rosa released the names of seven (7) known perpetrators of child sexual abuse and admitted that there were sixteen (16) in total. Seven (7) names were presented to the County District Attorney in 2002 detailing the approximate date and nature of the allegations. Those names were not released to the public because to do so would have been a violation of California Employment Law which maintains the confidentiality of personnel information.

            We have fully cooperated with the Sonoma County District Attorney regarding this previous disclosure and will continue to do so.

            Since the revelation of the Pennsylvania report the Diocese has enlisted the very able assistance of Honorable Charlotte Walter Woolard, Retired Judge of the California Superior Court and Honorable Daniel (Mike) Hanlon, Retired Justice of the California Court of Appeal to review Diocesan records and help determine which names should and can legitimately be released. The addition of these two members of the judiciary of California to the Diocesan Review Board will greatly enhance the capabilities of the existing Review Board and will assure a more accurate and timely release of the information which may legitimately be released.

            The lawsuit alleges a significant number of conspiratorial fraudulent activities on the part of the Dioceses of California. Among the claims of fraud the lawsuit claims that the Dioceses assert that there is no danger of child sexual abuse at its facilities. In the Diocese of Santa Rosa, I can only assure people that all volunteers and employees are screened (fingerprinted) and trained to recognize signs of sexual predation. Rather than stressing that we are already ‘safe’, we often stress the need for vigilance on the part of all. Predators rely on the complacency of those responsible for the children and the Diocese does not want to encourage complacency. The fact that individuals have undergone screening does not guarantee that they are not inclined to predation. It only guarantees that no criminal perpetrators are given access to children. The key is vigilance.

            While there have been gaps over the past decades in the promptness of reporting, the standard is the following of the law and this has been done. The engagement with local police and other civil authorities is recognized as absolutely necessary. We have a member of the Santa Rosa Police Department on our Diocesan Review Board. The names of all accused are brought to the Diocesan Review Board, usually after the allegation has been reported to Police or CPS. The advice of these lay persons, with various types of expertise, provides the best avenue for assuring the safety of our youth and the protection of the rights of victims and the accused.

            While the lawsuit is distressing in its bold assertions of fraud, the reality is that the Dioceses of California are not involved in a vast conspiracy of silence in regard to child sexual abuse. I am not aware of any entity that has acted as strongly and as consistently as the Catholic Church over the past 15 years to assure that no child, not even one, is the victim of any form of abuse while engaged in activities under Church supervision.

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