Fr. Crews resigns from Hanna
The Rev. John Crews, the executive director of Hanna Boys Center, resigned following allegations of a single act of sexual misconduct in the early 1970s.
The Rev. John Crews, the longtime executive director of Hanna Boys Center, resigned late last week following the allegation of a single act of sexual misconduct dating back to the early 1970s.
According to Dierdre Frontczak, communications director for the Diocese of Santa Rosa, the allegation was made to the diocese by a relative of the alleged victim, who is now deceased. Frontczak said Wednesday she did not know where the alleged incident took place and was not at liberty to reveal the gender of the alleged victim.
She said the diocese conducted a preliminary investigation into the allegation and that, under standard protocol involving allegations of sexual abuse, the relevant police agency was informed, although she was not able to confirm which police agency had been notified. She also confirmed that, had the alleged incident not involved a minor, a police report would not have been required.
Crews had been executive director of Hanna since July 1984 and would have celebrated his 29th anniversary this summer. He was widely praised and admired for his leadership in the lives of thousands of troubled youth who found in the center’s Catholic embrace a safe, nurturing environment and a rigorous educational experience.
Reaction from the Hanna board of directors came quickly.
“We are shocked and saddened and take any allegation of this nature very seriously,” said Jack Bertges, chair of the Hanna board. “We want our supporters and community to know that this alleged incident did not occur during John Crews’ tenure at the Hanna Boys Center and that we have no reason to believe that there was any inappropriate conduct between Father Crews and the students of Hanna Boys Center.”
Kris Van Giesen, chief development and community relations officer at Hanna, added, “We have no reason to believe that anything inappropriate every happened at Hanna. We have very rigorous procedures to guarantee the safety of the boys, with total transparency.”
Van Giesen said that Crews contacted senior staff at the center as soon as the diocese reported the allegation to him. “We did not ask and he did not share” any of the details of the allegation, Van Giesen said. “Being the leader he is, he understood immediately what was best for the center and submitted his resignation on the spot.”
Frontczak added that the allegation did not indicate a pattern of sexual misconduct. “Everyone involved (in the allegation) believes this was an isolated incident,” she said. “The (alleged) victim had no intention of ever raising it.”
She was unable to explain why the reporting party came forward, but the news media have been full of stories about the abuse scandal that rocked the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which has paid out $660 million to settle more than 500 cases of alleged sexual abuse involving more than 120 priests. A week ago, the Los Angeles Archdiocese was forced to post tens of thousands of files about the alleged abuses on its website as part of the legal settlement reached five years ago.
Frontczak, who has weathered her share of sex abuse storms in the Santa Rosa Diocese, notably including the case of fugitive priest and alleged child abuser the Rev. Xavier Ochoa, said the culture of reporting alleged abuse “has changed pretty dramatically” since the Ochoa case.
Ochoa, an assistant pastor at St. Francis Solano Church in Sonoma, was widely suspected of child sex abuse, but when a superior priest reported his concerns to then-Bishop Daniel Walsh, the bishop waited three days before reporting the allegation to law enforcement authorities. During that time Ochoa fled and was believed to have taken refuge in his native Mexico. He was subsequently charged with multiple counts of felony child sex abuse.
Today, said Frontczak, “I’d be stunned if there is any adult working anywhere near the diocese who doesn’t know abuse incidents have to be reported” to law enforcement.
Van Giesen said news of Crews’ resignation was shared first with Hanna staff this morning, and then with the students, all together in a group.
“It was very difficult, they’re definitely dealing with it,” Van Giesen said of the boys’ reactions. “The respected him, and do respect him, immensely.”
Van Giesen said trained professional counselors are onsite, “they’ll be interacting with the boys all day.”
Hanna has some 110 boys in residence at the Arnold Drive campus, along with close to 100 staff, Van Giesen said, adding that from a personal perspective, “It’s been a privilege to work with Father Crews over the last eight years. It’s clear that he’s had an amazing impact on thousands of boys.”
Frontczak said she thought it unlikely that investigation of the abuse allegation will lead to criminal charges, and Van Giesen added that Crews will leave a legacy of “thousands of boys who will be better men as a result of their experience at Hanna.”
He said the search for a successor has already begun and a succession plan has long been in place. The existing leadership team, he added, has an average of 25 years experience at the center and are fully capable of running the facility until a new executive director is named. That team includes Chief Financial Officer Monica Clark, high school Principal Dennis Crandall, Clinical Director Dr. Tim Norman, Chief Operating Officer Scott Singer and Van Giesen.