The Bishop of Oakland has put a Danville pastor on leave after learning he let an itinerant priest who was removed from ministry over a child abuse accusation in another diocese celebrate Mass and sacraments at St. Isidore Parish.
In a Sept. 21 letter to parishioners read at Mass last weekend, Bishop Michael C. Barber said he learned last week from another diocese’s disclosure reported by this news organization that “Father Patrick Foley was removed from priestly ministry due to inappropriate behavior with children.”
He said it “also was brought to my attention that Father Foley celebrated Mass and other sacraments at St. Isidore” without having received a “letter of suitability” from the diocese in violation of the Catholic Church’s national protocols.
The bishop said he has “ordered an investigation of how this violation could have taken place” and that the parish pastor, the Rev. Gerry Moran, “has been placed on administrative leave from the parish so that the investigation can proceed in a totally independent manner.”
The San Diego diocese earlier this month added names to a list of disgraced priests compiled originally as part of court proceedings in 2007. Among those named was Foley, who had left the San Diego diocese in the early 1990s but remained under its authority. While working in the Sacramento area in 2010, he was accused of molesting two boys and brought before a church tribunal.
The boys didn’t testify and the tribunal was inconclusive, the San Diego diocese said. The diocese briefly restored Foley’s priestly faculties in 2012, but after a new bishop took over in San Diego, he permanently removed Foley from ministry in August 2015.
Foley, however, continued to offer himself up as a priest, maintaining a website that describes himself as an “itinerant papist preacher” based in Sacramento. In addition to celebrating Mass at St. Isidore’s, he has led spiritual retreats throughout northern California, including in Danville and Soquel. He did not respond to phone and email requests for comment about the allegations.
In his letter to parishioners, Barber said that “as of today, we are not aware of any children or vulnerable adults being harmed in any way by Father Foley.” He urged anyone who knows otherwise to call police.
For now, Barber said that “Father Moran remains a priest of the diocese and is able to celebrate the sacraments elsewhere” while the investigation is ongoing. But he will not live at the St. Isidore rectory, celebrate sacraments there or comment publicly during that time, Barber said.
The bishop appointed the Rev. Paul Schmidt as the “temporary administrator” at St. Isidore and said the investigation will be conducted “in as timely a manner as possible” and its results reported to parishioners.
“As your bishop I apologize for the scandal this unauthorized invitation of a sanctioned priest has caused you,” Barber told parishioners in the letter. “I will do everything in my power to make sure it never happens again.”
Full story at Mercury News.