San Diego

Diocese of San Diego's List of Abusive Priests ‘Incomplete', Attorney Claims

A San Diego law firm is requesting the California Attorney General investigate a list of priests accused of child abuse and misconduct recently released by the Catholic Diocese of San Diego.

The Diocese recently released a list of more than 50 abusive priests in San Diego and San Bernardino of whom the diocese said it had received a credible allegation involving sexual abuse of a minor.

The reverends on the list served within the diocese for decades. Some served as far back as the 1940s.

Attorney Irwin Zalkin and victims of sexual abuse said Thursday that the list is far from complete.

“We know of at least 10 if not a dozen additional priests that are not on this list,” Zalkin said.

One woman who identified herself as DeDe spoke about a priest who worked in Vista.

“This priest, Alexander Pinter, did not just molest boys, he crushed their childhood to the point that their trauma is still hindering them, unable to come forward and speak publicly,” she said.

Dede was not a victim but said a loved one was victimized by Pinter.

A man who identified himself as Joe said he felt the need to be at the news conference because the issue is much larger than his story.

He attended St. Patricks where Father Robert Koerner was the parish priest. He was an altar boy after first communion. The abuse started when he was 10 years old then abruptly stopped.

“I’m here today because I’m looking for closure. Part of that closure is getting acknowledgment by the diocese that they accept responsibility for what happened to me and for what Robert Kerner did to me and others,” he said.

Koerner was included in the diocese’s list. He served for almost 30 years at St Patrick’s in Calipatria before his death in January 1990.

Zalkin said his firm has been representing people accusing the San Diego Catholic Diocese of wrongdoing for two decades.

“I’ve been seeing what’s been going on and what has been happening over decades of covering up for pedophile priests,” Zalkin said.

In September, The Catholic Diocese of San Diego released the names of eight priests who at one time worked in San Diego County.

The eight names: The Reverends Jose Chavarin, Raymond Etienne, J. Patrick Foley, Michael French, Richard Houck, George Lally and Paolino Montagna, and Monsignor Mark Medaer.

Zaklin called the list a public relations ploy to suggest that diocese officials are being transparent.

The Catholic Diocese of San Diego provided the following statement: 

"The Diocese publishes a list of all priests credibly accused of abusing minors prominently on its website.

All accusations of priest misconduct are taken seriously. The allegations are reviewed by an Independent Review Board, a lay committee that includes persons with judicial, law enforcement and legal experience, as well as a marriage and family therapist and a victim of sex abuse. If the Review Board concludes that an allegation is credible, than the priest is permanently forbidden from functioning as a priest at the diocese or anywhere in the world.

The diocese is a mandatory reporter. All accusations are reported to civil authorities and victims are encouraged to report any incident to law enforcement.

To the best of our knowledge, there have been no new incidents involving priests and minors since the diocese implemented major reforms in 2003.

These reforms include fingerprinting and background checks for all priests and church personnel who interact with children, training for students and staff in Catholic schools and religious education, and zero tolerance for any priest credibly accused of abusing a child.

If anyone believes the published list is incomplete, they may contact the Diocese at(858)490-8353."

Five of the eight priests are now dead and the diocese was only able to provide photographs of three.

The addition of the names brings the total number of abusive priests connected to the diocese to 56. The previous 48 were identified after a 2007 settlement in which the diocese paid out almost $200 million to victims.

A diocese spokesperson said there have not been any reports of abuse at the Diocese of San Diego since the early 2000s.

The release of the names comes weeks after a grand jury report implicated hundreds of Catholic clergy members in six Pennsylvania diocese in the sexual abuse of thousands of children over several decades.

You can read the entire grand jury report here.

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