Bishop Bad Boy

Santa Rosa's charismatic Catholic bishop got busted shaking down a priest for sex. But he had friends in high places -- and they served him well.

At one point, she says, Hume was summoned for an audience with Levada at the San Francisco chancery office. The half-hour session was strained from the outset after she showed up with her client and insisted on being present. "[Levada's] entire theme was to intimidate Jorge, to threaten his career as a priest if he persisted," says Cordova. "It was clear they were working on him from both ends, on the civil side with one set of lawyers who were trying to get rid of his complaint, and on the canonical side, knowing that he was desperate to retain his [priestly] faculties."

Even as he stepped down, Ziemann received an unusually generous show of support from his friend the archbishop. Levada told the press that he joined "friends throughout California and beyond in thanking [Ziemann] for the energy and gifts he has shared far and wide. Our prayers and good wishes go with him."

But diocesan operatives had underestimated Hume. Despite Levada's alleged effort to intimidate him, he was not defrocked. And on his lawyer's advice, he had worn a hidden microphone and captured several lurid conversations with Ziemann. He also preserved several articles of clothing allegedly stained with the bishop's semen.

In one recording, a transcript of which was obtained by SF Weekly, Ziemann repeatedly apologizes for forcing the priest to have sex with him, even while attempting to persuade him to accept a transfer to avoid a possible criminal investigation. "I'm afraid the police are looking at you, OK?" he says. "All they need is another complaint and they'll move."

In broken English, Hume tells Ziemann he has heard his apologies before. "All the time [you say], 'This the last time, the last time, the last time.' Never it came the last time. All the time I came with you to have sex and sex and sex and sex. It's not good for me, not good for me ... all the times when I had to sleep with you." Ziemann responds: "I know, it's been my fault. And I'm sorry for that. Because I don't think you wanted to do that."

The priest says the bishop has given him two venereal infections.

Ziemann: "Two what?"

Hume: "Venereal infection."

Ziemann: "Confession?"

Hume: "No, no, venereal ... infection into my organs."

Ziemann: "Oh, really?"

Hume: "Oh really, yeah, two."

Ziemann: "From me?"

Hume: "Yeah."

Ziemann: "I didn't know that. I'm sorry to hear that."


While disastrous, the sex scandal may have been easier for Levada to contend with than the financial mess Ziemann left behind.

Rank-and-file Catholics who weren't necessarily interested in the details of their bishop's sex life still wanted to know about what happened to the money they donated. Those who pushed for full disclosure and who say that's what Levada promised were disappointed.

"I found [Levada] to be worse than Ziemann, because in my view he out-and-out lied to us," says Mary Shea, a college instructor from Napa who is among those still waiting for an accounting. In a fruitless effort to get answers from the archbishop, she joined a group of protesters who staged candlelight vigils whenever Levada appeared in the diocese in the months following Ziemann's departure.

In Ukiah, Sister Kelly also viewed the aftermath of Ziemann's tenure with suspicion and disappointment. At one of the parish meetings, a local news photographer captured the finger-pointing nun dressing down Archbishop Levada for his failure to come clean. "It was very disappointing for the whole mess to have occurred in the first place, without compounding it by trying to cover things up," she says.

Less than enthusiastic reviews greeted the archbishop's first public appearance after the resignation, in which he delivered a homily at St. Eugene's Cathedral in Santa Rosa the month after Ziemann's departure. Referring to Ziemann as "our brother and your former shepherd," Levada expressed sorrow and compassion for his friend and urged the faithful not to let the sex scandal distract them. "It was more than a little too convenient," says Hoard, the children's advocate. "People wanted answers, and all Levada wanted to do was preach 'forgive and forget.'"

The archbishop sounded a similar note in Ukiah during a special visit to Hume's old church. There, during a closed-door meeting with 90 priests that lasted two hours, Levada disclosed that the diocese was broke and $16 million in debt. Afterward, he gave a condensed version to reporters waiting outside. Among other things, he said, the diocese had overspent on its programs, frittered away money in poor investments, and -- intriguingly -- paid out $5.3 million to settle sex-abuse claims against some of its priests. To restore fiscal order, he announced a combination of budget cuts and loans from both banks and other dioceses (Mahony's L.A. Archdiocese was good for $1 million).

But Levada's numbers left some skeptical. The Santa Rosa chancery had been inundated with claims from abuse victims based on years of letting wayward clerics run amok. Michael Meadows, a Walnut Creek attorney, heard the $5.3 million figure and was surprised. His clients alone had received nearly $4 million in settlements from the diocese stemming from the antics of just one priest, Father Gary Timmons, who had been harbored by two of Ziemann's predecessors.

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