See No Evil

S.F. Archbishop William Levada styles himself as a leading advocate for openness among Catholic leaders on the clergy sex-abuse issue. So why doesn't he practice what he preaches?

But her worst single fright was when Father Teddy came for an overnight visit in 1972. Chavez, then 16, spent a sleepless night with a chair braced against her bedroom door, afraid the priest would slip into her room after the rest of her family had gone to sleep, she says. The next morning, while she was alone in her mother's bedroom, Father Teddy, wearing his clerical collar, grabbed her and tried to pull her pants down, she says. She says he let go after she threatened to expose him.

To her relief, when she returned from school that day, he was gone.

Although happily married and with a daughter who is a Peace Corps volunteer, Chavez says she has spent decades struggling emotionally with the effects of the alleged abuse. She was 30 before she was able to tell her mother what had happened. It wasn't until 1993, during former San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn's tenure, that she turned to the archdiocese for help, a pursuit that she says has left her feeling victimized a second time.

San Francisco Archbishop William J. Levada, then 
(above) and now (top): His handling of abuse cases 
has drawn the ire of victim advocates.
San Francisco Archbishop William J. Levada, then (above) and now (top): His handling of abuse cases has drawn the ire of victim advocates.
As auxiliary bishop of San Francisco in 1997, current 
San Jose Bishop Patrick J. McGrath figures 
prominently in the saga of whistle-blower Father John 
As auxiliary bishop of San Francisco in 1997, current San Jose Bishop Patrick J. McGrath figures prominently in the saga of whistle-blower Father John Conley.

Indeed, Chavez's attempt to enlist the archdiocese's aid in blowing the whistle on Father Teddy is its own horror story, suggesting ineptitude, if not indifference, on the part of archdiocese officials.

When Chavez first contacted the archdiocese she was suffering from an eating disorder, which she attributes to being abused, and says she was assured that she would receive help in "doing something about Father Teddy." The archdiocese paid for counseling, but her hopes of getting assistance in tracking down the priest were dashed during 1993 when, in a meeting at her therapist's office, Father Gregory Ingels, then the vicar for clergy, announced that the archdiocese was not responsible for Father Teddy since he was merely a visiting priest during the time of the alleged molestations, Chavez says. (Ingels has his own problems. As this article was going to press, a criminal complaint had been filed against him alleging that he sexually molested a minor in Marin County in 1972. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Marin County Superior Court on May 28.)

She then turned to McGrath, the auxiliary bishop, who she says at first seemed agreeable to the idea of the archdiocese's paying for a trip she wanted to make to Mexico to pursue the priest. But archdiocese officials soon discouraged her, she says, contending the journey wouldn't be safe.

Then something unexpected happened. In May 1994, she says, she was notified that the archdiocese had received a letter from Father Teddy. In it, he acknowledged that he had become better acquainted with Chavez than with any other member of her family, adding, "Never did I ever think that my friendship or my affection would do her any harm." Ingels let her view the letter, but refused to give her a copy. "When I asked him why he wouldn't give me a copy of the letter, he told me it was 'for the protection of the priest,'" she says, "which infuriated me."

Soon afterward, she says, the archdiocese stopped paying for her therapy.

Last spring, after Chavez gave a newspaper interview in which she was quoted as saying that "my Latina ass would be in jail if I had hurt a child the way Father Teddy had," Ingels mailed her the letter, she says.

At about the same time, a sympathetic Father Bruce Dreier, the current pastor of Church of the Epiphany, her childhood church, agreed to her request to print her allegations about Father Teddy in the parish bulletin. But that was about as far as the church's cooperation went.

What followed, she says, was a series of meetings with Auxiliary Bishop John Wester, who she says "said all the right things, seemed to listen and be sympathetic, but did very little." Her demands to Wester were simple, she says. "I wasn't seeking money. I didn't want to cause them any problems. I simply wanted them to do what they should have done years earlier. I wanted them to locate this priest in Mexico and make sure [local church leaders] were aware of my allegations against him -- to protect kids from going through what I went through."

But that didn't happen, according to her.

Despite assurances by Wester in May 2002 that the archdiocese would do everything it could to locate Father Teddy, she says, months dragged by with no progress until, with Wester's support, she agreed to detail her abuse in a letter that Wester promised to send to Mexican Catholic officials. Writing the letter was a painful exercise that she agonized over for two months. Last November, she says, Wester assured her that it had been mailed.

But the next month, at a meeting of abuse victims at the chancery office, she asked if he had heard anything and was flabbergasted to learn that he had misplaced the letter. But, Wester added, he had finally sent it that very day.

Something else that happened in December caused her doubts about the archdiocese's sincerity to deepen.

Father Teddy's superior, Archbishop Emilio Carlos Berlie Belaunzarán of Mérida, was to come to San Francisco for a celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the revered Mexican saint. When Chavez learned of the visit, she says, she called Wester to help arrange a meeting with the Mexican prelate. She says Wester nixed the idea, saying Archbishop Berlie's schedule was too crowded.

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