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?

Approached by an SF Weekly reporter, the panel's co-chair was similarly unwilling to identify its members or discuss its activities. "I would need to get permission from someone at the chancery office before I say anything," said Janice McKay, a retired San Francisco police investigator.


It was McKay who came to Lacampagne's Outer Sunset home last May, more than a month after Lacampagne reported the allegations against Carter to the archdiocese in early April.

"She spent maybe 30 minutes visiting with me and didn't want to get into much detail," says Lacampagne. She says McKay was "sympathetic" and "said things that clearly made me believe that she had no trouble with my credibility." McKay told her another member of the panel was contacting Carter to hear his account, she says. Lacampagne says she thought McKay's visit was preliminary and that she would get the chance to share her story with the entire panel, which McKay told her consisted of "six or seven" members. Lacampagne expressed a similar hope to Bishop Wester, her main contact at the archdiocese, she says.

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 
Conley.
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.

But no one else from the panel ever spoke with her. "The weird thing is that they never talked to anyone [among friends and family] to even know what kind of person I was," Lacampagne says. (Although raised in the church, she no longer professes Catholicism. Both her father, Emile, a financial consultant, and her mother, Janet, a San Francisco police sergeant, attended the same Notre Dame parish and school that she and her two siblings attended.) In fact, no one from the archdiocese, including Wester, ever notified her about the official disposition of the matter, she says. As April dragged into May and then June, Lacampagne says she grew weary of making calls to Wester and McKay to find out what was taking so long.

"I didn't want their money, or their sympathies really," she says. "My only goal was to hope that [Carter] would be removed from being around children."

At one point McKay attributed the delay in resolving the matter to scheduling, saying it was "difficult to get four people together," Lacampagne says. She says McKay identified the four as McKay, another panel member said to have interviewed Carter, and two others -- Levada and Wester. "It made me wonder just how the review board operates, since the only one of them who ever spoke to me was Janice McKay." In her final phone conversation with McKay in June, she says, the board co-chair told her -- mistakenly, at the time -- that Carter had been removed from his parish job. She said he had denied the allegations but that as far as the review panel was concerned the case was "open but inactive."

Carter wasn't removed until August. By then, a frustrated Lacampagne had turned to attorneys in her quest to get the archdiocese to act. The experience with Wester and the review panel had been a dead end. In fact, she says, Wester, unintentionally or otherwise, had conveyed inaccurate information about important aspects of her account. A summary of her allegations provided by Wester to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office -- part of the disclosures Hallinan required of the archdiocese -- that she later obtained from the DA differed on a couple of key points from what she says she told Wester and McKay.

The report, in which her name was misspelled and the month she was alleged to have first contacted Wester was inaccurate, erroneously portrayed the nature of her abuse as vaginal penetration, which Lacampagne says she never asserted. It also said the alleged molestation occurred in the bedroom of her home. She says Carter fondled her at the dining room table, after she had come downstairs in her pajamas to say good night, and while her parents and siblings were elsewhere in the house.

Carter's supporters seized on the apparent discrepancies. As part of a vocal campaign for his reinstatement, a newsletter distributed to parishioners in February alleged that his accuser had changed her story between the time she contacted Wester and when she filed her lawsuit. His backers amassed a legal war chest of more than $100,000. Carter took the extraordinary step of supplying supporters with postcards attesting to his innocence and asking them to mail them to Levada. He wrote open letters to parishioners likening his efforts to regain his post to doing battle against "the forces of evil." He even continued to preside over services for invited guests at a supporter's home.

Particularly jolting, says Lacampagne, was an accusation by the priest's backers that her father -- a long-ago friend of Carter when the men sang in the same church choir -- had expressed doubts about her story. The claim was part of a whispering campaign to vilify her, several parishioners at the Belmont church say. The charge was repeated in the newsletter distributed by Carter's proponents, citing as a source none other than Wester. "Bishop Wester told [Father] Carter at the initial meeting with him in April [2002] that the accuser's father had said that the alleged incident never happened," the newsletter asserted.

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