One of East Bay's Longest-Serving Priests Accused of Raping Child Decades Ago

The former church leader served as a priest throughout the Bay Area for over six decades. NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit looks into the call to action to track down other potential victims of Monsignor John T. McCracken

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An East Bay priest who died in 2012 – six years after retiring as the longest serving priest within the Diocese of Oakland – is accused in a new lawsuit of raping a young boy on multiple occasions between 1972 and 1974.

The accusation comes as part of a wave of new lawsuits hitting Catholic dioceses across the state, made possible by a recent law opening a three-year window for new civil cases based on older allegations previously barred by the statute of limitations. Attorneys involved in those cases say more than 700 new accusers have come forward with allegations against Northern California dioceses alone since last year, and they expect more to follow.

It’s the first time Monsignor John T. McCracken has been publicly accused of sexual abuse and his name is absent from the Diocese’s 2019 list of priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children. The Diocese of Oakland declined to comment on the allegations, citing the pending lawsuit, but released McCracken’s assignment history going back all the way to 1944, which shows posts across the East Bay during the priest's 62-year career.

NBC Bay Area is not naming McCracken’s accuser, who filed his lawsuit as “John Doe,” because he says he’s a rape victim and does not want to be identified.

“I was crippled with very deep depression and anxiety for years, for decades,” Doe said. “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.”

Coming from a devout Catholic family where priests were revered, Doe says his old diaries offer a window into the torture he endured through the fourth and fifth grade at Queen of All Saints in Concord, where he served as an altar boy.

“Page after page with the same thing,” Doe said. “God hates me. God is doing this to me.”

Doe says McCracken would summon him to his office in the rectory, where the priest would touch him inappropriately and rape him.

“Throughout this experience, Monsignor McCracken talked to Plaintiff, saying affirmations like, “You’re a good boy … God is happy with you … You’re doing such a good job,” Doe’s civil complaint states.

“This was out and out rape,” said Sandra Ribera-Speed, John Doe’s attorney, who showed medical records demonstrating her client was treated for “rectal bleeding” when he was 11 years old.

Although Doe is the first to publicly accuse McCracken, he doesn’t believe he was the priest’s only victim. Neither does Ribera Speed.

“Just the viciousness of what this priest did to my client, there’s no doubt there’s got to be something somewhere that he had done this to others.”

Doe and Ribera Speed say the priest had access to countless children over the course of his career.

  • Monsignor John T. McCracken’s Assignment History
  • (Source: Diocese of Oakland)
  • 1944-48: assistant pastor, St. Augustine, Oakland
  • 1948-1950: student at The Catholic University of America
  • 1950-56: assistant director, Catholic Social Service in Oakland
  • 1956-58: director, Catholic Social Service for Marin, Solano and Contra Costa counties
  • 1958-62: director, Catholic Social Service for Solano and Contra Costa counties
  • 1962-1970: director, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Oakland
  • 1969-70: pastor, St. Benedict in Oakland
  • 1970-79: pastor, Queen of All Saints in Concord
  • 1979-83: pastor, St. Mary in Walnut Creek
  • 1983-85: pastor, Santa Maria in Orinda
  • 1985-89: retirement due to cardiac condition
  • 1989-2006: pastor, St. Anne in Walnut Creek

McCracken is the fourth new Oakland priest since 2019 to be accused of sexually abusing a child. At least two others have been accused of sexually abusing an adult in recent years.

Only one of those priests, Hector David Mendoza Vela, in prison after pleading no contest to five counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor in 2019, has been added to the Diocese’s list of priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children.

Dan McNevin, a Bay Area leader with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests tracks clergy sex abuse allegations closely and says uncovering abusive priests is critical, even if they’re dead.

“It’s very important that his name get put out there and that his assignments get put out there because his victims are still alive,” said McNevin, a child sexual abuse survivor himself. “So, it’s important to help his victims heal by talking about him and about what happened.”

McNevin said Doe’s courage in coming forward will likely lead to more victims going public and possibly new lawsuits against the Diocese of Oakland.

“Whenever they publicize the name of the priest, that priest probably has five, 10, 15, 20, 25 victims,” McNevin said. “And the first is usually the one that breaks the dam.”

Doe says the abuse he endured nearly ruined his life, so he’s coming forward to help shield others.

“I feel that it’s my duty to protect children,” Doe said. “Because I lost almost three decades of my life and I almost lost my life with two suicide attempts.”

Even after enduring years of torment, Doe said he’s found joy. He’s married and has a two-year-old daughter.

“I’m living joy with [my daughter] that I have never known,” he said.

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