Two Sonoma Valley priests on diocese abuser list

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A third: Thomas Parker

A priest who was only in Sonoma for a short time also appeared on Bishop Vasa’s list. Father Thomas Parker was ordained in Santa Rosa in 1985 and worked as a priest at St. Francis Solano Church in 1990. He is accused of misdeeds in 1988-89 at St. Apollinaris parish in Napa, which related to a boy in the parish. A settlement was reached with the victim’s family in 2007. Church officials said that Parker also worked at St. James in Petaluma (1991-1992), St. Patrick in Scotia (1992-1995). He was defrocked in 2008.

Santa Rosa Bishop Robert F. Vasa on Saturday disclosed the names of 39 priests and deacons with ties to the diocese who church leaders say committed child sexual abuse or were credibly accused of such crimes, a disclosure that marks the most comprehensive acknowledgment to date of the decades-long scope of the clergy abuse scandal in the local Catholic church.

Two former Sonoma Valley priests are on the list: Francisco Xavier Ochoa and John Crews.

Francisco Xavier Ochoa

Francisco Xavier Ochoa was an assistant pastor at St. Francis Solano Church on West Napa Street in the 1980s and again from 2000 to 2006.

Ochoa died in Mexico in 2009 at age 71. He fled the U.S. for Mexico in 2006 several days after a meeting with the Santa Rosa Diocese in which he admitted that he offered a boy $100 to strip dance in front of him and that he had kissed other boys on the lips.

After the meeting, Ochoa was removed from his duties, but the diocese delayed in reporting the allegations to authorities. A subsequent police investigation revealed that Ochoa had allegedly molested multiple children from different families.

In documents disclosed after a warrant was issued for Ochoa’s arrest, investigators said that the priest also brought a 15-year-old boy - now an adult - from Mexico and installed him in his diocese-owned residence where the two engaged in regular, sometimes violent, sex.

“If (the victim) refused to cooperate with Ochoa, Ochoa would violently rape him,” wrote Sonoma County Sheriff’s Detective Ruben Martinez in 2006. The victim estimated Ochoa had sex with him two to three times a week for approximately one year. He told authorities that he did not know how to get Ochoa to stop.

The Santa Rosa Diocese was sued by families of Ochoa’s victims and in September 2007 the diocese settled the case for $5 million.

John Crews

John Crews resigned as executive director of the Hanna Boys Center in 2013 following an allegation of sexual misconduct with a boy in the 1970s, prior to his arrival in Sonoma in 1984.

His resignation, which shocked Sonoma residents at the time, stemmed from a complaint brought by relatives of the alleged victim, who is deceased.

At the time of Crews’ resignation, Vasa said that the diocese followed church and legal requirements in Crews’ case and he described Crews, who was 67 at the time, as handling the resignation “very graciously.”

Crews was allowed to remain a priest in the diocese until he retired, but would “not serve in any other public ministry,” the bishop said.

Prior to his work at the Hanna center, Crews served as a parish priest at St. Sebastian Church in Sebastopol and St. Joseph Church in Cotati, and also served briefly as an administrator at Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa.

Vasa said at the time of Crews’ resignation that no other allegations against Crews were contained in diocese records.

Crews did not admit to any misconduct, according to Hanna officials, contacted about the case in 2013.

The investigation

Vasa’s list, made public to about 140,000 parishioners as well as the media over the weekend, includes many well-known names long public due to high-profile molestation cases as well as several previously unknown — most of them accused for offenses committed several decades ago.

A third: Thomas Parker

A priest who was only in Sonoma for a short time also appeared on Bishop Vasa’s list. Father Thomas Parker was ordained in Santa Rosa in 1985 and worked as a priest at St. Francis Solano Church in 1990. He is accused of misdeeds in 1988-89 at St. Apollinaris parish in Napa, which related to a boy in the parish. A settlement was reached with the victim’s family in 2007. Church officials said that Parker also worked at St. James in Petaluma (1991-1992), St. Patrick in Scotia (1992-1995). He was defrocked in 2008.

At least 23 of those on the list are deceased.

None are serving in public ministry in the Santa Rosa Diocese, Vasa was quoted as telling the North Coast Catholic newspaper last week.

About 17 people included on the list served in the Santa Rosa Diocese at some point but had accusations lodged against them elsewhere, Vasa said.

But the bishop said a search of the records indicated about 25 priests were accused of abusing about 100 children during service to the Santa Rosa Diocese from its founding in 1962 to the present — “a shocking number” that, in part, inspired release of most of the names, he wrote in the diocesan newsletter.

He noted that four priests — Gary Timmons, Don Kimball, Austin Peter Keegan and Francisco Xavier Ochoa (of Sonoma) — were responsible for 63 known victims. Kimball and Ochoa are deceased, according to the church.

“My primary goal in releasing the names of accused priests and deacons who served in Santa Rosa in this public fashion is to give to all the victims of clerical sexual abuse the assurance that they have been heard and that the Church is very much concerned for their well-being and healing,” Vasa wrote. “It is my deepest prayer and hope that this release of names in a consolidated fashion says to any of you who are victims, we have heard you, we believe you, we affirm you in your trauma and we want to help with a healing process.”

Melanie Sakoda, national secretary and Bay Area spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said she found seven names on the list she had never seen associated with clergy abuse before and was pleased, as well, to see member of Catholic orders, which have been omitted by other dioceses, on Vasa’s list.

“I think it was more complete than I suspected it was going to be,” she said.

She said SNAP still believes Santa Rosa and other dioceses should also be accounting for nuns, teachers and others besides priests who serve within the world of the Catholic church and its schools and institutions, “but he did a good job.”

In contrast, an attorney with Jeff Anderson and Associates, a Minnesota-based law firm that has taken on the Catholic Church nationally, called the list “a deflection,” released under pressure from the whole of society, as well as parishioners and his own clients.

Michael Reck, whose firm represents a Ventura County man and clergy-abuse survivor who has sued every Catholic diocese in California, said, “Yes, this is a good list.” But “the focus on dead perpetrators,” he said, “leaves out the hierarchy that covered this up, that moved them around.”

The list of 39 clergymen includes the well-known names of predatory priests whose behavior came to light beginning in the mid-1990s during a rash of civil and criminal cases that exposed the sprawling North Coast diocese as a focal point of the Catholic abuse scandal several years before widespread misdeeds erupted nationwide.

The diocese has since paid out more than $29 million in legal settlements to childhood victims of at least 10 priests since the 1990s, about $12 million of it covered by insurance, Vasa said.

“Sadly, we have had sexual abuse events as late as 2006 and 2008 and I find that most troubling,” Vasa said in his written statement accompanying the disclosure, which was also published in Spanish. “However, the vast majority of the abuses occurred decades ago. This is not complete proof that the Church is making progress in eliminating this great tragedy, but I find this to be a sign of hope.”

Vasa has said he spent weeks combing the internet and aggregated lists for names and information that might allow him to issue the fullest possible report to his parishioners, in collaboration with members of the Diocesan Review Board established in 2002.

The diocese also is urging any church abuse victims to contact the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator, Julie Sparacio, at 707-566-3308, or P.O. Box 1297, Santa Rosa, CA 95402.

You can reach Mary Callahan at mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com or Lorna Sheridan at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.

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