Zipped Up

S.F. Archbishop William Levada doesn't want the public to know about decades of alleged sexual misconduct by his clerics. But why are district attorneys in San Mateo, Marin, and San Francisco helping him keep secrets?

A letter that Jack Hammel, the archdiocese's legal counsel, sent to then-Marin County DA Kamena in September expresses displeasure at her stated intention to honor the Weekly's document request. The letter claims that the agreement was "developed following a meeting with various legal representatives of the Archdiocese and the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, including myself and Mr. Hallinan."

What the assertions fail to mention, however, is that Hallinan would have no part of it.

"I told Jack Hammel in no uncertain terms that I wouldn't go along with anything like that," recalls Hallinan. The former DA says he "rejected as inappropriate" negotiating for documents with a "potential target of a criminal investigation." Hallinan says he "wouldn't do a deal like that for [the archdiocese] any more than I would if it were an Elks Club with a bunch of pedophiles. Those are the kinds of deals that have allowed the church sex scandal to go on as long as it has."

Hallinan isn't alone in his opinion.

In Los Angeles, Assistant District Attorney Hodgman, a career prosecutor who convicted former Lincoln Savings & Loan kingpin Charles Keating and oversaw the O.J. Simpson trial, says he learned about the template that the District Attorneys Association developed at about the same time Hallinan was rejecting it. He also wanted nothing to do with it. "We thought it was a bad idea; something wholly unsuitable for us to participate in," says Hodgman. His boss, Steve Cooley, turned to a grand jury to subpoena sensitive documents related to more than 30 Southern California priests accused of molestation.

Indeed, there are features in the Marin agreement that many potential criminal defendants might wish their prosecutors would adopt. The protocol basically puts church officials on the honor system for turning over materials that they determine may be of relevance to the district attorney.

For example, the church obligates itself to provide the name, address, and telephone number of alleged victims, alleged perpetrators, and known witnesses of purported sexual abuse. But the pact specifically relieves church officials from searching every personnel file, past or present, to determine whether the file contains useful information. And, glaringly, it offers no sanctions should the church fail to comply. "I would say it's not worth the paper it's written on; it's a joke," says Robert M. Tobin, an attorney who represents several clients suing the church over alleged sex abuse and who has seen the protocol.

Dave LaBahn is the executive director of the district attorneys group that developed the template in consultation with the California Catholic Conference; he's a supporter of the agreement. He says he believes about "15 or 20" of the state's 58 district attorneys signed such agreements in their quest for church documents.

But even LaBahn acknowledges that "the protocol only works if there's willing cooperation [on the part of the church]; if there's no willing cooperation, then it's of no value."

Levada has won few friends among advocates for victims of sex abuse in the church. Those advocates and other critics charge that the archbishop has dragged his feet in response to pleas for help and that his top aides have worked to keep complaints about priestly sex abusers shrouded in secrecy.

In an open letter to the archbishop in November, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, urged Levada to withdraw his name as a candidate to replace outgoing Bishop Wilton D. Gregory as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (In subsequent balloting, Levada finished near the bottom of 10 bishops vying for the post.)

As San Francisco's archbishop and earlier as bishop of Portland, Ore., Levada has allowed priests to remain in active ministry who, he knew, were accused of molesting children. In a deposition in connection with a Portland case last year, Levada acknowledged having reinstated an Oregon priest, Father Joseph Bacallieri, to parish ministry in 1994, barely two years after sending him to a treatment program for child molesters.

Levada has disclosed knowing of sex allegations against Ingels since mid-1996. Yet Ingels' career flourished until Hallinan demanded church sex abuse records.

With Levada's blessing, Ingels served as an adjunct professor at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park and performed parish duties at St. Bartholomew Church in San Mateo while maintaining his high-profile role as a canon lawyer. Levada appointed Ingels director of formation for the Permanent Diaconate, entrusting him with the job of supervising church deacons within the 425,000-member archdiocese. Even after prosecutors learned of sex complaints that turned up in Ingels' church files and Levada finally removed him from public ministry, the archbishop allowed Ingels to continue his work for the Archdiocesan Tribunal, helping adjudicate annulment cases.

Perhaps the biggest single blow to Levada's credibility on the sex abuse issue occurred last October. That's when the founding chairman of the six-member Independent Review Board dropped a bombshell by quitting and accusing Levada of preventing disclosure of the board's findings related to more than three dozen priests.

"I just decided that I had had enough; that I couldn't be a part of something that wasn't about openness and transparency," clinical psychologist James Jenkins tells SF Weekly. He faults Levada for "deception, manipulation, and control" of the panel, saying the archbishop has used it as "little more than an elaborate public-relations scheme."

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