California Bishops Never Intended to Be Transparent
In June of 2023, the Diocese of Oakland tried to use the federal bankruptcy court to conceal the names of priests accused of sexual abuse—even those still working with children and posing a public safety threat.
According to NBCBayArea:
“Attorneys representing the Diocese of Oakland in its ongoing bankruptcy case are seeking to seal the names of priests and other church employees accused of sexually abusing children or aiding in alleged cover-ups.”
“The Diocese’s attorneys declined an interview request from NBC Bay Area at a hearing Tuesday but argued in a recent motion that confidentiality will protect accused clergy against the disclosure of a ‘scandalous’ and deeply personal matter in publicly filed court documents.”
Oakland’s Threat to Public Safety
Keeping the names of predators accused in our civil justice system is a public safety threat. Need proof? Two days after the diocese attempted to seal names, NBCBayArea reported that two ACTIVE Oakland priests are named in sexual abuse lawsuits. These are priests still in ministry who work with children, families, and in communities where local parents are not warned of the threat:
“At least two priests actively serving Catholic parishes in the East Bay are among hundreds of Bay Area clergy being accused of abusing children in a flood of recent lawsuits.”
“On a legal call with its bankruptcy creditors last week, the Diocese revealed two of its accused priests are still in ministry, according to a plaintiff’s attorney and a former Oakland priest who were on the call.”
One of these priests, Fr. George Mockel, is the current pastor of Santa Maria parish in Orinda. According to Oakland Bishop Michael Barber, the diocese allegedly had an internal investigation regarding Mockel. The diocese, without releasing any evidence or internal files, or the number of alleged accusers, said that the accusations against Mockel were “not credible.”
“Given this, Father Mockel continues to have my support,” Barber said.
A Dangerous Precedent
Sealing names in the bankruptcy case does one thing: Protects wrongdoers.
And this is more than 20 years after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued their “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” and after TWO Child Victims Civil Windows passed by the California Legislature to ensure that survivors have the right to use the civil courts to expose abusers and the people who enabled them.
Frankly, this move shows that the bishops never intended to be transparent about abuse.