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.

Ziemann couldn't have picked a more ideal spot to cool his heels than Holy Trinity Monastery in Arizona.

Far from the glare of media attention to which he had become unhappily accustomed, the bucolic Benedictine retreat is barely an hour's drive from the bright lights of Tucson. There, Ziemann's friend Moreno, 72, reigned as a powerful religious and civic mover-shaker. When he stepped down this month after disclosing that he suffers from Parkinson's disease and prostate cancer, Moreno was under pressure to divulge information in a number of pedo-priest cases.

One of his more infamous former clerics, accused child molester Monsignor Robert Trupia, for years led young prospective seminarians from Tucson on so-called "come and see" weekends to his alma mater, St. John's, until banished from the seminary after getting caught having sex with a young man in the school's bell tower.

Better Times: Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann, before he 
resigned his Santa Rosa post in 1999.
Courtesy of the Press Democrat
Better Times: Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann, before he resigned his Santa Rosa post in 1999.
Levada gets an earful from whistle-blower Sister Jane 
Kelly in 1999.
Courtesy of the Press Democrat
Levada gets an earful from whistle-blower Sister Jane Kelly in 1999.

Moreno's decision to pack him off to Washington, D.C., to study canon law at Catholic University continues to generate embarrassment. Still on the Tucson Diocese payroll while living in Maryland, Trupia (who was arrested after allegedly molesting nine boys from Yuma but released because the time limit for pressing criminal charges had expired) has used his legal expertise to resist efforts to defrock him. (The diocese years ago paid more than $6 million to settle abuse claims against Trupia.) In February it was revealed that until 2001 he had spent seven years as a paid canon law consultant for the Diocese of Monterey in California. The disclosure prompted the resignation of Monterey's vicar-general, Monsignor Charles Fatooh, who hired Trupia and who owns the Maryland condo where he lives.

Last year, in the aftermath of the U.S. bishops' conference in Dallas, at which the assembled hierarchs seemed to compete with each other in their rush to show reformist tendencies, Moreno released a list of 15 of the Tucson Diocese's priestly bad boys, going back many years. Trupia was the headliner. But the list also was notable for who wasn't on it -- a cleric who shall be identified here as Father B since no civil or criminal charge has ever been filed against him.

SF Weekly has learned that Father B was accused of molesting several children in the L.A. Archdiocese in the early 1980s, during the tenure of Mahony's predecessor and chief benefactor, the late Cardinal Timothy Manning. He was shuffled to Arizona and assigned by Moreno to a Tucson parish as an associate priest over the objections of the pastor. There, he allegedly molested again before being hustled out of town. Father B later left the priesthood and for a time was employed at a Toys "R" Us store in Southern California.

In a letter to Moreno last year describing an alleged incident involving Father B, a Tucson man says the priest abused him in a hot tub at a church rectory in the summer of 1984. The accuser, who declined to be interviewed, wrote that the priest began by rubbing his back and that after his hands "went down into my shorts," he apologized, saying they had slipped. "At some point then he had his penis out of the top of his shorts and was rubbing it against the small of my back at the top of my back side," the accuser wrote to Moreno. Lynne Cadigan, the attorney who represented the alleged victim, says no lawsuit was filed on his behalf because the alleged incident occurred so long ago that it is too late to seek damages under Arizona law.

Moreno declined numerous requests for interviews, and his spokesman stopped returning a reporter's phone calls after being asked about Moreno's role in harboring Father B. It's a role Moreno managed to keep secret, even as a deferential local press officially marked his stepping aside March 7 in favor of his successor, Gerald F. Kicanas. But the secret required tending.

As recently as Sept. 30, Moreno met privately with the letter writer -- the son of a church deacon -- and apologized. In a written summary of that meeting, the accuser says Moreno said he had accepted Father B into the Tucson Diocese as a favor to the archbishop of Los Angeles, presumably Cardinal Manning, without knowing that previous molestation accusations had been leveled against him there. However, church sources in Tucson, who spoke on condition of anonymity, dispute that, saying the pastor at the parish where Father B was assigned complained vigorously to Moreno at having to take on a priest with such a track record. At the September meeting, the accuser says, Moreno apologized three times. "When he was done he apologized again and I asked him, "For what are you apologizing?' I was interested in clearly understanding what he was sorry about. He said, "For the horrible things that happened to you.'"

Against this backdrop, it isn't surprising that Moreno chooses not to discuss Ziemann, his exiled friend and fellow bishop. Even Moreno's spokesman, Fred Allison, professes not to know much about the monastery's star inhabitant. "I assume things are going well [with his spiritual rehabilitation]," Allison says. The monastery, which is open to the public, and rents small cabins to tourists and others, is a popular destination for Catholics seeking meditation and spiritual renewal. It is also a frequent stopover for young men contemplating a career in the priesthood.

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