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Letters to the Editor 

Week of April 2, 2003

A Bishop Runs Wild

And my guy had to clean up the mess: Regarding a recent story by Ron Russell, here are some facts concerning the tenure of San Francisco Archbishop William J. Levada as the Vatican-appointed administrator for the Diocese of Santa Rosa following the resignation of Bishop Ziemann ["Bishop Bad Boy," March 19]. Archbishop Levada took on the added duties in Santa Rosa when the diocese was in moral disarray and financial chaos. After Ziemann resigned in the wake of a sexual affair with one of his priests, Archbishop Levada discovered evidence of Ziemann's extraordinary mismanagement of diocesan finances. The diocese had no financial liquidity despite having spent millions in parish funds trying to keep ahead of huge overspending.

Archbishop Levada immediately eased financial liquidity with funds from the Archdiocese of San Francisco and a temporary bank loan. He removed the chief financial officer from his post and appointed a respected and qualified replacement. The archbishop appointed a 19-person lay majority Finance Council and worked with members to address the immediate concerns of the diocese and to set the stage for longer-term recovery. The archbishop ordered an investigation into the finances of the diocese and published an audited financial report that was given to all parishioners. He also asked other dioceses to provide financial help to the Diocese of Santa Rosa.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Levada traveled to many parishes in the diocese and held town hall meetings, accepting the brunt of people's anger at Ziemann and explaining the steps being taken to restore trust and confidence. When his 10-month tenure as administrator ended, the Finance Council, priests, and parishioners of the Santa Rosa Diocese voiced their appreciation to Archbishop Levada.

None of these facts made it into Russell's story.

Maurice Healy
Chief Spokesman
Archdiocese of San Francisco

Attaboy: Great story. Russell has uncovered a wasp's nest.

Terrie Light
Northern California Regional Director
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)

What's Mahony hiding?: The sordid Ziemann affair illustrates the moral decline of the American church. Ziemann was good friends with L.A.'s Cardinal Mahony who is now resisting two district attorneys' requests for documents about the network of pederasts that thrived for decades in the L.A. Archdiocese. Not only are there layers of bad priests in several dioceses, the bishops give them aid and comfort.

The church has lost six bishops due to homosexual pederasty and pedophilia in recent years. These bishops, including Ziemann, were approved by the Vatican and United States Bishops' Conference. Cardinal Law of Boston was forced to resign after shielding Father Shanley for decades. Shanley was a founder of the North American Man Boy Love Association who ran a Palm Springs homosexual sex hotel while serving in the San Bernardino Diocese.

It is good that Bishop Moreno of Tucson, Ariz., has resigned. With him out of the way, he can no longer run interference for Ziemann and the ring of pederasts who have thrived in Los Angeles. These include the infamous Fathers "Hollywood" Harris, Baker, Wempe et al. All were seminary mates at St. John's in Camarillo with Cardinal Mahony. It is indeed difficult to believe that Mahony did not know of the immoral lifestyles of Ziemann, Harris, and Baker. The moral decline in the church today rivals that during the church's dark ages. It runs deep in the U.S. church today.

Ralph Ballmer
Via the Internet

More truth, please: Excellent, well-researched article. Especially relevant to Catholics in San Francisco, who would like to see Levada come clean.

G.A. Walden
Via the Internet

Levada's still stonewalling: I am a survivor of sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic priest who was also my father. He committed suicide more than 20 years ago and the abuse occurred in another state. Like so many, I was forced to deal with this after the memories were triggered again and again by the onslaught of media attention that began a couple of years ago.

I eventually became involved in the survivor community here in S.F., where I work, and in Sonoma County, where I live. I am a member of SNAP and of a group called No More Secrets, which meets with representatives of the archdiocese once a month. We are looking for help.

No More Secrets is an advocacy group on behalf of victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse. We have been frustrated by lack of cooperation from the archbishop and a total lack of transparency on salient matters. For example, we have been told that the archdiocese has none of its files relating to abusive clergy, having surrendered the original files to the DA. We have requested a list of clergy who have been identified as abusers by more than one victim and/or on behalf of which settlements were paid. No list has been forthcoming. We have requested that a victim/survivor be placed on the Independent Review Board, so that we can at least observe its procedures. The archbishop refused.

Of greater concern to the public at large is that these and other matters are unreported or underreported in the local media. Our main local paper, the S.F. Chronicle, seems unwilling to investigate clergy sexual abuse within the archdiocese in depth. Many of us have tried to find a team -- or even one reporter -- at the Chronicle to delve into the matter seriously. The archdiocese already exercises great influence over local politicians, judges, and law enforcement. Perhaps the tentacles of the archdiocese extend to the Fourth Estate here? We certainly hope not.

The archdiocese has evidenced a pattern of deception for at least the past 30 years, allowing sexual predators to continue their unholy "ministries" after their nature was already common knowledge at the chancery. We believe that this continues to the present. Less than a year ago, the "Independent" Review Board recommended that a priest be placed on administrative leave because of credible allegations that he was a sexual predator. The archbishop waited six weeks to do so, during which time the same priest heard confessions of young children alone in his rectory. The matter was unreported.

We are looking for help!

Even if we survivors had the resources and skills needed to properly investigate the archdiocese, it would be all for naught if the information could not be made public. As one of our number said, "If it's not in the papers, it never happened!"

Patrick Wilkes
Rohnert Park

And now, this message from Italy: Very interesting story! Justice exists in this world, and European Catholic pedophile priests WILL NOT escape penalty in European countries!

Davide Boccia
Milan, Italy

Can you spell R-E-F-O-R-M-A-T-I-O-N, archbishop?: After my mother passed away in 1993, I came into an inheritance and donated several thousand dollars to a special fund-raiser known as "The Bishop's Ring of Charity" that Ziemann had set up. I also donated several thousand more to a gymnasium fund for my daughter's school, St. Rose in Santa Rosa. I'm glad that the media, like SF Weekly, is not letting the clergy get away with this and keeps the public pressure on.

The Catholic Church needs to fundamentally change its structure, and Catholics need to demand it or start a new Reformation. Your reporter should interview Bishop Walsh (Ziemann's successor ) and ask him why he's put the bite on the Santa Rosa Diocese for more money in a new fund-raiser to pay back what his predecessor squandered.

Phil Snodgrass
Santa Rosa


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