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New report details history of alleged sexual abuse in Fresno Diocese

Posted: 3:14 AM, Jun 07, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-07 10:14:04Z
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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A new report from Los Angeles law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates details the names and some of the allegations of sexual misconduct against 43 clergymen from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno. Among those 43 clergymen, at least 15 were found to have connections to Kern County.

The Anderson Report on Sexual Abuse in the Diocese of Fresno states that the allegations made in the report have either been "settled or have not been fully evaluated in a civil or criminal court." The report states that, "the allegations should be considered just allegations and should not be considered proved or substantiated in a court of law."

The report claims to detail a timeline and analysis of sexual abuse within the Diocese of Fresno, "including a discussion of how the highest Church officials enabled the abusers and covered up crimes of sexual misconduct and abuse," according to the report.

The report states that from the 43 clergymen listed for alleged abuse, these 15 have connections to Kern County:

1.Bp. Tod D. Brown

1964-1967 Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Bakersfield, Calif.(MF)

After Bp. Tod D. Brown was ordained, he spent the next two and half decades rising through the ranks of the Catholic Church. By 1988, he was named Bishop of Boise. After a decade in Boise, Bp. Brown returned to California as Bishop of Orange. Following his new appointment, news broke alleging that Bp. Brown had sexually abused a minor boy in 1965. Subsequently, it was uncovered that, despite his charade of increased sex-abuse transparency, he had a storied history of repudiating victims, covering up sexual abuse, and continually employing perpetrators. Bp. Brown’s status as a priest, current whereabouts, and whether he has access to children are unknown.

2.Fr. Hermy Dave O. Ceniza

1993 St. Francis, Bakersfield, Calif. (FRS)

In 2010, a man sued the Diocese of Fresno for fraud, claiming the Church had “duped” him concerning sexual abuse perpetrated by Fr. Hermy Dave O. Ceniza that had occurred nearly 20 years previously. The plaintiff, who at the beginning of the abuse was a minor, alleges he was sexually abused by Fr. Ceniza for two years in approximately 1991 when Fr. Ceniza worked at St. Francis in Bakersfield, California.

3. Fr. Mario Walter Cimmarrusti, O.F.M

1985-1993 Our Lady of Guadalupe, Delano, Calif. (FRS)

Fr. Mario Cimmarrusti was ordained a Franciscan priest. Allegations of sexual abuse arose against Fr. Cimmarrusti prior to his time spent at Servants of the Paraclete, an institution known for treating priests accused of child sexual abuse, in 1981 and 1982. In 1994, Fr. Cimmarrusti was accused of child sexual abuse at St. Anthony’s Minor Seminary in Santa Barbara, California and was named in a civil lawsuit in 2003. In 2006, a settlement was reached in a case involving Fr. Cimmarrusti and seven other priests accused of sexually abusing students at St. Anthony’s Seminary High School, the Santa Barbara Boys Choir and the Santa Barbara Mission all in Santa Barbara, California. At least 12 survivors have come forward to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles alleging sexual abuse between 1962 and 1969. Fr. Cimmarrusti was included in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ “Report to the People of God: Clergy Sexual Abuse Archdiocese of Los Angeles” in the “Religious Order Priests and Brothers” section. Fr. Cimmarrusti’s last known address was the San Damiano Retreat House in Danville, California. From approximately 1994 to his death in 2012, Fr. Cimmarrusti’s whereabouts, his status as a priest and whether he had access to children until his death are unknown.

4. Fr. Daniel DeDominicis, C.S.Sp.

1968-1976 Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bakersfield, Calif. (FRS)

Fr. Daniel De Dominicis was ordained a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. Fr. De Dominicis was named publicly on the Diocese of San Bernardino’s 2018 list as “Clergy Credibly Accused of Child Sexual Abuse.” According to the list, the “Year(s) of Incident(s)” were from 1975 to 1985. The list also states that the Diocese of San Bernardino was made aware of the allegation in 1994, but it was not reported to police until 2002. Fr. De Domincis’ current whereabouts, status as a priest, and whether he has access to children are unknown.

5. Fr. Raul Diaz (Attended McFarland High School in 1983)

2007-2018 St. Catherine of Siena, Dinuba, Calif. (FRS)

In May of 2019, Fr. Diaz was reportedly placed on paid administrative leave pending investigation reportedly involving allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Bishop Joseph V. Brennan is quoted saying that a report was made which alleged that “Fr. Diaz has engaged in inappropriate behavior that may include inappropriate contact with minors.” Bishop Brennan further stated that law enforcement is involved in this investigation. Fr. Diaz’s current whereabouts, status as a priest, and whether he has access to children are unknown.

6. Fr. Miguel Flores

2008-2018 St. Joseph, Bakersfield, Calif. (FRS)

Fr. Miguel Flores was ordained in Bolivia and worked in numerous other countries before arriving to the Diocese of Fresno in 1999. In 2002, a survivor came forward to accuse Fr. Flores of sexually abusing her when she was a minor at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Hanford, California. Fr. Miguel Flores went to trial for multiple counts relating to child sexual abuse. Fr. Flores was eventually acquitted of all charges and allowed to return to active ministry. As of 2018, Fr. Flores was still an active priest in the Diocese of Fresno. His current whereabouts, status as a priest, and whether he has access to children

7. Fr. Louis Aloysius Garcia

1976-1978 Mercy Hospital, Bakersfield, Calif. (FRS)

Fr. Louis Aloysius Garcia worked in the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno and later in the Diocese of Fresno. After working for multiple years at Porterville State Hospital in Porterville, California, Fr. Garcia was accused of sexually abusing several young developmentally disabled patients. He was charged with 19 counts relating to child sexual abuse which involved six male and two female patients. Some of the charges were dismissed, but he was eventually convicted and sentenced to six years in prison. Fr. Garcia’s current status as a priest, his whereabouts, and whether he has access to CHILDREN.

8. Msgr. Craig Francis Harrison

1990-1991 St. Francis, Bakersfield, Calif. (FRS)

1992 St. Francis, Mojave, Calif. (FRS)

1993-1999 St. Joseph, Firebaugh, Calif. (FRS)

2000-2007 St. Francis, Bakersfield, Calif. (FRS)

2008-2018 St. Francis of Assisi, Bakersfield, Calif. (FRS)

2011-2012 St. Mary, Buttonwillow, Calif. (FRS)

2008-2015 Diocesan Offices

2012 St. Mary, Taft, Calif. (FRS)

2013-2018 Our Lady of the Snows, Frazier Park Calif. (FRS)

2019 Unknown

On April 12, 2019, a survivor made a report of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by Msgr. Harrison to the Diocese of Fresno. Three days after receipt of this report, the Diocese allegedly contacted the Firebaugh Police Department. Msgr. Harrison was reportedly put on paid administrative leave due to an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor that occurred decades prior in Firebaugh, California. Since then, two other survivors have come forward alleging childhood sexual abuse by Msgr. Harrison. One of the survivors purportedly previously reported the sexual abuse by Msgr. Harrison in 1998, and again in 2002. The Diocese deemed the allegation unsubstantiated and Fr. Harrison continued his priesthood. A survivor who has alleged sexual abuse against Msgr. Harrison is a Catholic monk that referred to Msgr. Harrison as a mentor and felt compelled to come forward after hearing other allegations. Msgr. Harrison’s current whereabouts, status as a priest, and whether he has access to children are unknown.

9. Fr. Gerald A. Hartz

2004-2017 Retired; Christ the King, Bakersfield Calif. (FRS)

In 1996, a survivor came forward to accuse Fr. Gerry Hartz of alleged child sexual abuse in approximately 1995 in the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa. Father Hartz was not charged for this offense, and stayed active in ministry. Fr. Hartz recently provided ministerial support services for a time at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Bakersfield, California and is believed to have been assisting at Christ the King Church in Fresno, California. Fr. Hartz’s status as a priest, current whereabouts, and whether he has access to children are unknown.

10. Msgr. Anthony G. Herdegen

1947-1948 Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bakersfield, Calif. (MF)

1960-1976 St. John’s, Wasco, Calif. (MF/FRS)

1983-1984 St. Mary, Taft, Calif. (FRS)

Msgr. Anthony G. Herdegen worked as a priest for nearly four decades before retiring in 1995. In 2003, he was accused of sexually abusing a boy for fourteen years, beginning when the survivor was a young minor. The boy’s older brother also accused Msgr. Herdegen of sexually abusing him after the brother attempted to protect his younger brother. The case was initially dismissed due to lack of evidence; however, later, an appellate court unanimously agreed that Msgr. Herdegen had sexually abused the brothers but that the Church had no knowledge of the events and thus was not liable. During the trial, it is reported that one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys received a call from a man claiming that Msgr. Herdegen had sexually abused him in 1967, two years prior to the sexual abuse of the brothers. The man claims to have told the school principal about the abuse, but no action was ever taken. As of 2009, Msgr. Herdegen had admitted to sexually abusing the two brothers, but he remained a retired priest in good standing. Msgr. Herdegen’s status as a priest, his whereabouts, and whether he had access to children from 2005 until his death are unknown.

11. Fr. Edgardo (Edgar) Arrunataegui Jimenez

2000 St. Elizabeth, McFarland, Calif. (FRS)

Fr. Edgardo (Edgar) Arrunataegui Jimenez is a Peruvian priest that was ordained in Peru before arriving in the Diocese of Orange in 1987. After about four years in the Diocese of Orange, Fr. Jimenez left the Diocese of Orange and went to Peru, reportedly for mission work. He returned to California in 1998, this time working in the Diocese of Fresno. Fr. Jimenez left the Diocese of Fresno in 2002 and is believed to have fled the country. It wasn’t until 2004 that the reason for Fr. Jimenez’s abrupt departure from the Diocese of Orange – allegations of child sexual abuse – was released. Around this time, Fr. Jimenez was recorded as working at a parish in Madrid, Spain. The last record of Fr. Jimenez in Spain was recorded in 2009. In 2017, an investigative news team found Fr. Jimenez working as a hospital chaplain for the Diocese of Chimbote, Peru.

12. Fr. Thomas Patrick Purcell, S.M.

1987 St. Francis, Mojave, Calif. (FRS)

1988 St. Joseph, Boron, Calif. (FRS)

1989-1990 St. Mary’s, Buttonwillow, Calif. (FRS)

1991 St. Francis, Mojave, Calif. (FRS)

1992 St. Francis, Bakersfield, Calif. (FRS)

Fr. Thomas Patrick Purcell was ordained a priest of the Society of Mary. In 2002, Fr. Purcell was arrested for child sexual abuse. In 2003, he was subsequently sentenced to nine and a half years in prison. Fr. Purcell was named on the Diocese of Tucson’s “List of clergy and other Church personnel identified by the Diocese of Tucson with assignments, employment or ministry service within the Diocese about whom the Diocese is aware of credible allegations of sexual misconduct involving a minor.” Fr. Purcell’s current status as a priest, his whereabouts, and whether he has access to children are unknown.

13. Fr. Eric Swearingen

1987-1988 Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bakersfield, Calif. (FRS)

Fr. Eric Swearingen has worked at more than 10 parishes. In 2002, Fr. Swearingen was accused of sexually abusing a minor altar boy from 1989 to 1993 while working at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Bakersfield, California. The alleged victim filed a lawsuit which went to trial in 2006. The jury was posed with two questions: is Fr. Swearingen guilty of sexual misconduct and is the Diocese of Fresno guilty of wrongdoing? The jurors found Fr. Swearingen guilty of child sexual abuse; however, the jury fell short of the nine votes required to find the Diocese of Fresno guilty of wrongdoing. Due to this, it ended in a mistrial. Instead of a retrial, Fr. Swearingen and his accuser entered a binding arbitration to settle the lawsuit, the conclusion of which has remained secret. Fr. Swearingen was found guilty of sexual abuse, but has faced no punitive action and was allowed to continue working as a priest, overseeing youth ministries. As of 2018, Fr. Swearingen was working at Good Shepherd Catholic Parish in Visalia, California. Fr. Swearingen’s current status as a priest, whereabouts, and whether he has access to children are unknown.

14. Fr. Robert Gamel

1995-1996 Christ the King, Olidale, Calif. (FRS)

2000-2008 St. Ann, Ridgecrest, Calif. (FRS)

After 25 years of working as a priest, in 2014, Fr. Robert Gamel was put under investigation for “internet related sex crimes” and subsequently placed on administrative leave. A few months following the start of the investigation, Fr. Gamel was reportedly removed and transferred to another location where he ministered to senior citizens. Over a year after the investigation first began, Fr. Gamel was formally charged with possession of child pornography. A few months later, Fr. Gamel pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 11 months in county jail and four years of probation. Less than six months after being released from jail, Fr. Gamel was charged with possession of child pornography with a prior conviction. Fr. Gamel pleaded no contest to the charge and was sentenced to four years in state prison, where he reportedly remains. His status as a priest is unknown.

15. Fr. Ramon Varela, O.F.M.

1978-1979 Our Lady of Guadalupe, Delano, Calif. (FRS)

Fr. Ramon Varela was a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Barbara, part of what is formally known as the Order of Friars Minor. Fr. Varela was included in the Franciscan Friars Province of Santa Barbara’s “List of Franciscan Friars from the St. Barbara Province with Credibly (sic) Claims of Sexual Abuse of a Minor” in the section, “Deceased Former Province of St. Barbara Friars Who Have Been Credibly Accused.” According to this list, a report was made in 1994 alleging that Fr. Varela sexually abused minors from approximately 1949 to 1979. The list also states that Fr. Varela was living in New Mexico. His status as a priest and whether he had access to children from 1993 until his death are unknown.

To read the full report, click here.

The Diocese of Fresno released a statement on Wednesday addressing sexual abuse by priests. In the statement, Bishop Joseph V. Brennan of the Diocese of Fresno said:

I have confidence in the steps in place, including the Independent Compensation Program. It is understood that nothing will ever truly compensate for the harm that has been done. Only God has the power to heal the wounds of abuse. However, the Church is working to accompany those and support those who are on the path to healing.

To read the full statement from the Diocese, click here.