Advocates from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests gathered Tuesday at the doorstep of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland to unveil a list of East Bay priests they say have been accused of sexual abuse, mostly against children.
“We’ve painstakingly gone through all the records we could find,” said Dan McNevin, a survivor of clergy abuse and one of the architects behind SNAP’s list, detailing his process of combing through court filings, news reports and other publicly available sources for bits of new information.
Currently standing at 227 names, the list just published by SNAP is more than three-times longer than the list of alleged abusers Oakland Bishop Michael Barber published in 2019, which includes priests deemed to have been “credibly accused” of abusing children by an internal diocesan review board.
“I think the reason [the Diocese’s list] is short is because the more names that are on that list, the more survivors are triggered to come forward,” McNevin said.
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More than two decades removed from the clergy sex scandal that exploded in Boston and sent shockwaves worldwide, victim advocates say the church still hasn’t come clean about abuse within its ranks, and cite the Diocese of Oakland as an example.
“There are so many secrets, so much hidden, that you can’t really trust anything that’s said,” McNevin said.
While the Oakland Diocese’s list only includes priests or religious order brothers “credibly accused’ of sexually abusing minors, SNAP takes a broader approach, also including lay church employees or priests alleged to have abused adults.
“The Bishop of Oakland has said he’s committed to accountability, but we never see him at events like this,” said Tim Stier, a former Oakland priest whose long been critical of the how the Diocese has handled the sex abuse scandal. “In order for him to release more names [of accused priests], it’s like pulling teeth.”
The Diocese of Oakland has not responded to multiple requests for comment since Monday evening on SNAP’s new list, and why it’s so much longer than its own.
Following Monday's rally, McNevin and other advocates attempted to hand deliver their list and an accompanying letter to Bishop Barber but were met with a closed door.
Moments later, a black Mercedes pulled up, its driver telling the advocates they weren’t allowed on church property. The unidentified driver said he would deliver SNAP’s letter to the Bishop.
Reporting from NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit has also raised questions about the Diocese of Oakland’s list of alleged abusers.
A 2019 law opened a three-year window for Californians to file new claims in civil court based on older child sex abuse accusations that would typically be barred by the statute of limitations.
NBC Bay Area’s review of those court filings found more than a dozen East Bay priests and church officials, none still active, now facing abuse allegations in civil court for the first time. So far, they have not been added to Bishop Barber’s list, but they are included on SNAP’s.
The Diocese hasn’t responded to inquiries asking how they would review those new claims, consistently saying they would not comment on any pending litigation.
One such example is now-deceased San Leandro priest Msgr. Michael McGinty, who former altar boy Mark Staley alleged in a recent lawsuit choked and sexually abused him when he was eight or nine years old.
“The next thing I remember, his hands were here on my throat,” Staley said. “I recall passing out, and when I woke, I was looking down and I could see the top of his head.”
One of the East Bay’s longest serving priests, Msgr. John McCracken, was also accused in a recent lawsuit, but remains absent from Oakland’s list. McCracken, who died in 2012, was accused of raping a young boy multiple times between 1972 and 1974.
“I was crippled with very deep depression and anxiety for years, for decades,” McCracken’s accuser, who does not want to be identified, told NBC Bay Area in a 2021 interview. “It’s only from 30 years of doing therapy and many years of group therapy and recovery meetings that I’ve got to the point where I can actually have a voice for myself.”
There are also examples of priests accused in more recent years, such as Fr. Alexander Castillo, who Bishop Barber placed on leave in 2019 after receiving reports he abused at least two minors between 2011 and 2014.
According to the Diocese, Castillo left the country soon after they announced his suspension, and NBC Bay Area has been unable to reach him. The priest was never criminally charged because police say the alleged victims declined to cooperate in the probe.
Castillo remained on leave as of earlier this year and a spokesperson for the Diocese recently told NBC Bay Area they still can’t reach him. Yet, he’s absent from their list of accused abusers and the spokesperson has declined to state why that is.
“I would love to know why Bishop Barber has not put this guy on this list,” McNevin said.
SNAP says they’re calling on Bishop Barber to review the list they just presented, and expand the list published by the Diocese. They welcome a meeting with Barber, they say, but so far, that hasn’t happened.
“I think the only thing that will really cause systemic change will be secular authorities coming down on these bishops and forcing them to be open,” McNevin said.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta has an ongoing investigation into clergy abuse, but his office recently declined to comment on its status.
His office encourages potential victims to report abuse using the email address ClergyAbuse@doj.ca.gov.