San Diego

Local Diocese Sent Letters of Recommendation for a Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse

J. Patrick Foley worked in San Diego for nearly 20 years

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego continued recommending a local priest even after he faced claims of sexual misconduct.

This comes after the diocese identified a list of priests credibly accused of sexual misconduct with a minor.

J. Patrick Foley joined the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego in 1973, where he worked various jobs at eight different parishes across the county, including Saint Francis Seminary in Linda Vista and the University of San Diego, until 1991.

It was in 1991 when he moved to the Sacramento area, and the alleged sexual misconduct happened with two minors.

Foley never returned to San Diego, but eight years ago, police in northern California and San Diego were told of the assault accusations.

“We suspended him and took away his faculties, which means he wasn't allowed to publicly function as a priest,” said San Diego Diocese Vice Chancellor Kevin Eckery.

The Catholic Church held their version of a trial, known as a Canonical trial, with Foley in the hot seat.

“And in this case, sadly, just like in criminal and civil cases, they couldn't reach a conclusion,” said Eckery.

Eckery said he believed the verdict wasn’t reached, in part, because the alleged victims didn’t participate in the trial, while their parents did.

With no guilty verdict, the diocese felt it was obligated to support Foley, according to Eckery.

“It literally put the diocese between a rock and a hard place,” Eckery said.

Foley, no longer a Catholic priest, has however continued to minister. He offers his services on a website.

But years later, the San Diego Diocese had a change of heart.

In 2015 and under new leadership, they determined they needed to take a new approach when it came to sending recommendation letters of its staff.

“We looked at the problem differently and realized that we can simply withhold these letters,” said Eckery.

And in another step towards full transparency, the dioceses added Foley's name to the list of dozens of priests from San Diego with credible accusations of sexual misconduct with a minor.

Foley now lives in northern California and told KQED that the sexual abuse accusations against him are quote "false and libelous."

The San Diego Diocese has paid nearly $200 million to 144 survivors of priest abuse.

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