Catholic child molester controversy

Bishop appears at Cabrini Mass for personal apology

Bishop McGrath

The following November 18 story appeared in the San Jose Mercury News.

Bishop Patrick McGrath apologized during a family Mass on Sunday for “a failure at the diocese level” that gave permission to a convicted child molester to volunteer at the Saint Frances Cabrini parish festival last month.

“I take full responsibility,” McGrath told the congregation from the podium moments before the service began at Cabrini, located on Camden Avenue in San Jose. “I pledge to you I will do everything in my power to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Although the bishop said he hoped his remarks and a letter he included in the parish bulletin would “answer some of your questions,” neither explained how or why a letter was written and signed by someone at the diocese vouching for pedophile Mark Gurries.

The 51-year-old engineer, married to a former teacher at Saint Frances Cabrini, was convicted just two years ago of “lewd and lascivious conduct” on a minor under 14 years old. He served nearly a year in county jail and remains on probation. The victim was a relative.

“As a matter of record, it was a mistake that allowed Mr. Gurries to be a parish volunteer and to be present at the festival,” the bishop wrote in the letter included in the bulletin. “Our policy is clear: No one who has been found guilty of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult can be hired or allowed to be a volunteer that involves children, young people or vulnerable adults.”

McGrath, 67, the bishop of the San Jose Diocese since 1998, said he was “deeply troubled, and I apologize to you that this policy was not followed.” In the letter, McGrath also offered special commendation to the group of parents who recognized Gurries at the parish festival and argued vehemently with the parish priest until Gurries was escorted off campus by a sheriff’s deputy. …

John Borrelli, a parent at Saint Frances Cabrini who confronted the parish pastor about Gurries on the night of the festival and spoke on the record to this newspaper about what happened, said “it made me feel very good for the bishop to see what we tried to do that night was correct.”

The school principal told parents in a letter last week that no one from the school administration had given permission. However, the parish priest, the Rev. Lieu Vu, told angry parents at the festival that Gurries had a letter giving him permission, that he had a right to be there and should be forgiven. That letter came from the diocese but has not been made public. It remains unclear who signed it and who authorized it.

It is unclear why Gurries, whose wife no longer works at the school nor has any children there, would request to be a volunteer, although he may have been a member of the parish. He worked the sound system at the festival on Oct. 6.

“There’s still questions as to why this person wrote the letter,” Borrelli said. “Who wrote this mysterious letter. Who approved such a thing. These people have to be held responsible for what happened.”

Borrelli’s daughter, 19-year-old Melanie Borrelli, was home from college and working the festival with her parents and when she spotted Gurries, whom she had heard was a pedophile.

She Googled his name on her smartphone and found his photo on the Megan’s List of sex offenders and showed her parents. A group of parents then asked Vu to oust Gurries from campus, but Vu said Gurries had a letter and a right to be there.

It took about five hours of tension and yelling before a sheriff’s deputy, who was working as security at the festival, escorted him from the school grounds….

To read entire story, click here.

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  1. Maryanne Leonard says:

    This is a perfect example of why the laity must be ever vigilant and must speak up every single time something outrageous happens in our churches. Unfortunately, outrageous things do happen more and more these days, and we are not always heard. To keep our church grounds as sanctuaries for the faithful and to keep our children and ourselves safe, we must remain vigilant and keep on protesting until at last we are heard. I am speaking as a silent victim of a horrible crime on Catholic grounds that occurred 51 years ago and from which I am still working to recover fully. Horrible things happen, even from our clergy at times, and we must do as Christ would have us do, without the fear of authority and clerical power that has crippled me for all these years. Our children are now under our watchful care, and watchful we all must be.

  2. Abeca Christian says:

    Wow…parents trust no one. How did something like this go undetected? Praise God that the lay faithful got involved and make a big fuss to make sure this pedophile would stay away from children. There needs to be a full investigation and if this man produced these documents on his own, he should be prosecuted for those charges. If someone from the church did sign them, then the church needs to handle that with firmness and a strong disciplinary action.

    We can’t play with the safety of children!

  3. WOODY GUIDRY says:

    Can’t wait to read all the bishop beheaders get hold of this. Ought to be good fiction, although very unoriginal.

  4. We forgive you your past sins but we just can’t let you have access to our children anymore.

    • That’s right. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetfullness. It’s that story of the snake and the mouse. The mouse wanted to cross the river, the snake comes along and says “I’ll take you across the river and I promise not to harm you” so the unsuspecting mouse gets on the snakes back. Half way to the other side the snake turns his head and proceeds to get hold of the little mouse and the half eaten mouse says “Wait! you promised not to harm me!” and the snake says, “Oh you foolish little mouse. it is my NATURE to be a snake.” and promptly swallowed the little mouse whole. So, us little mice don’t have to be stupid little mice. We can recognize a snake when we see them, and forgive them their many sins, but NEVER FORGET that they are snakes and take appropriate action.

  5. Is the priest’s title “Father” or “Robot”?

  6. At a time when the Church is striving to cast off its reputation for covering up and for protecting sex offenders, and promising accountability, we read that the diocese will not release the name of the person who signed the letter! What does that tell us? I believe our Church hierarchical system is utterly corrupt and needs radical reforming. It cannot be allowed to continue on like this. May God come to the help of His people, and save them from wayward bishops and priests.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      The late great Monsignor Sweeney knew only too well how corrupt the chancery is, and he suffered greatly when they moved on to his Church property. How do I know this? I was there when he told Archbishop Khai, that is how I know it.

      Now that they are both safely in the Hands of God and His Mother, I can freely tell these things for the good of the faithful! Not that they would have forbidden me to do so, they were true Generals in the Army of God!

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher

  7. Mbûkû Kanyau Mbithûka says:

    I can see the law suit now. This is going to cost this Bishop

  8. Laurette Elsberry says:

    I wonder if Gurries’ victim was a boy or girl under 14. Megan’s Law does not provide this detail. Just a thought – if the victim was a male, the coverup would be easier to understand since in general the hierarchy has been adamant about not acknowledging that homosexuals are more likely to offend than heterosexual males.

  9. This looks like another black eye for the Church. Worse to come, I fear.
    The Bishop’s answer is not enough. What is wrong that they ( Bishops ) can not see what a child can see?

  10. Cody in Tucson says:

    I guess I would say the Bishop is responsible to some degree. Here in Tucson in order to be a volunteer you have to be fingerprinted at the local police dept and a background check is done. Of course the local bishop is for open borders and I am pretty sure against showing ID at the voting booth, but that’s a story for another day. When the USCCB spent $1.8 million to white wash the John Jay Report to say that their abuse problems weren’t indicative of homosexuality, that is when I stopped volunteering and will NEVER again submit to the bishop’s background check. If these bishops don’t want to acknowledge the TRUTH, then they can find another volunteer, not me!

  11. The laity gets what it wants, and in our era today it wants sodomy and pedophilia. It sqawks a bit at discoveries but it hardly has done anything to rid the Church of this profound spiritual plague. The false doctrine of “forgive and forget”: Did Jesus tell us to forget the Cross? These corrupt clerics and their henchpersons would like to forget the Cross … they are like villains who smile while they beat and rob you. Thank God for the few true grains of salt among the hierarchy … because the rest of them have lost it.

  12. Why apologize when one could become holy instead?

  13. Abeca Christian says:

    Catechist gone and child molester in by mistake….wow when will some churches get it right!

  14. The Dover Beachcomber says:

    The Metro, a local entertainment weekly paper, claimed (approvingly) that the Diocese of San Jose is known as the most gay-friendly diocese in the western US. When youve earned a rep like that, I guess it’s hard to remember which of the Church’s teachings you’re currently ignoring.

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