House of the Accused

When priests within the Salesian order based in San Francisco were accused of sex abuse, the leaders chose to keep quiet.

Asked about the procedures employed by the order to determine the credibility of sex abuse complaints, Purdy, the superior, says that the order has hired a private investigator whose findings are forwarded to the order's legal counsel, headed by Steve McFeely, who is defending the Salesians in the lawsuits involving priests associated with the order's San Francisco provincial.

Besides Whelan, Father Harold Danielson, another recent associate pastor at Saints Peter and Paul, and Brother Ernie Martinez, who until recently was listed as a member of the parish staff, and who lives at the provincial house, have also been accused in lawsuits of child sex abuse. They have all proclaimed their innocence.

Purdy says the Whelan and Danielson allegations were also investigated in 2004 by the Independent Review Board set up by Levada for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and that it corroborated the Salesians' findings that the claims against the men were "unsubstantiated."

Saints Peter and Paul Church in North Beach is 
served by Salesian priests, including one current and 
one former associate pastor who have been accused 
of sexual misconduct.
James Sanders
Saints Peter and Paul Church in North Beach is served by Salesian priests, including one current and one former associate pastor who have been accused of sexual misconduct.
The Salesians of St. John Bosco provincial house at 
1100 Franklin St.
James Sanders
The Salesians of St. John Bosco provincial house at 1100 Franklin St.

But Jim Jenkins, a clinical psychologist and the former chairman of the review board, whose resignation from the board became effective in January 2005, disputes that claim. "The Whelan and Danielson cases did not come before our board while I was there," he says. "Besides, you have to be careful with a term such as 'unsubstantiated.' It shouldn't be confused with a finding of guilt or innocence. In these [civil] cases, that will be something for the courts to decide."


Among those watching to see how the various cases against the Salesian order are adjudicated will be Michael Perry, who, despite choosing not to press his own claims in court, says he knows firsthand the pain and suffering others have experienced.

That pain crystallized for him three years ago at a 40th anniversary reunion of his class at Salesian High School.

It was supposed to be a weekend for old friends to relive pleasant memories, with a barbecue dinner on Friday night, a prayer service before brunch the next morning, and, in the afternoon, a sit-down session around tables draped with white linen in a makeshift banquet room.

But it ended on a downer, he says.

"Of the 15 people who showed up, seven acknowledged that they had been sexually abused by Salesians during high school," Perry says. "It really made me wonder. It was a real eye-opener."

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