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SF Archbishop Cordileone Refusing Major Step Towards Transparency in Widening Sex Abuse Scandal

NBC Bay Area 9/29/2022 Michael Bott, Candice Nguyen, Jeremy Carroll, Michael Horn, Alex Bozovic, Grace Galletti and Roselyn Romero

Northern California’s most powerful bishop steadfastly refuses to release an internal list of priests accused of sexually abusing children, even as hundreds of new lawsuits hitting Catholic dioceses across the state suggest new depths to the church’s sex abuse scandal.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone remains the lone bishop in California declining to take the significant step towards transparency, and pressure is mounting for him to do so. 

“When you don’t publish a list and tell people the truth proactively, it’s a lie,” said Dan McNevin, a clergy sex abuse survivor and local leader for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). “And this is a religious institution that talks about morality.”

From San Diego to Santa Rosa, California’s 11 other bishops have posted such lists online, most of them following a 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report that found more than 300 priests across the state had sexually abused children and church leaders helped cover up their crimes.

Survivors, advocates, and attorneys have been pressuring Cordileone to release San Francisco’s list for years, but so far, he’s not budging.

“[We want] to call out and require the Archbishop of San Francisco, Archbishop Cordileone, to reveal the truth,” said prominent clergy abuse plaintiff’s attorney Jeff Anderson at a protest in front of the Archdiocese last year. “To reveal and disclose all the names of the offenders that have worked in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and have violated, raped, molested or abused children. Archbishop Cordileone, name your predators. It’s time.”

The Archbishop declined multiple interview requests to discuss the list, along with recent child abuse allegations against San Francisco priests. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese said the names of their accused priests are “already in the public domain,” but declined to answer follow-up questions about what exactly that means.

The calls for transparency come at a time when Catholic dioceses across the state are facing more than 700 new lawsuits made possible by a 2019 state law opening a three-year “lookback window” for potential victims to file civil lawsuits based on older childhood sex abuse claims. A June NBC Bay Area investigation found more than 40 Northern California priests or church employees are being accused of sexually assaulting children for the first time, including at least four priests who continue to work in the Bay Area. Those priests refuted the accusations against them directly or through attorneys.

A spokesperson for the San Francisco Archdiocese said they could not comment on any active litigation.

In the absence of San Francisco’s list, McNevin and SNAP have undertaken the task of creating their own, pulling names and information from lawsuits, criminal court filings, media reports and speaking with accusers.

SNAP’s list for San Francisco currently sits at over 300 names, the most of any Northern California diocese. The list grows longer as new lawsuits are filed.

“It’s nice to be able to discover a connection that might help somebody,” McNevin said. “The tough part is talking to survivors who are suffering.”

McNevin’s lists don’t stop with San Francisco. Although every other diocese in California has released their own list, McNevin says his lists far surpass the numbers from the bishops’ lists.

“We’ve gone through all these lists, and we have not found one that is complete,” McNevin said. “It’s a white-wash process.”

In all, McNevin’s lists for Northern California dioceses, which span from Fresno to the Oregon border, contain more than 600 names. Back in 2002, McNevin said there were fewer than 100.

On Thursday, SNAP plans on publishing a letter to Archbishop Cordileone demanding he publish a list of accused San Francisco priests. They also intend to make their own San Francisco list public.

The links below contain the published clergy abuse lists for the 11 other Catholic dioceses in San Francisco.

Santa Rosa

Sacramento

Oakland

Stockton

San Jose

Monterey

Fresno

Los Angeles

San Bernardino

Orange

San Diego

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