A survivor of child sexual abuse by a former priest at St. Finn Barr School is suing the Archdiocese of San Francisco in an effort to force the release of a long-promised list of names of clergy accused of sexual misconduct.
The lawsuit, filed by now 53-year-old Genaro Licea in San Francisco Superior Court on November 27, is also seeking damages for negligent supervision of a minor, among other things.
Standing on a sidewalk outside of The City’s archdiocese headquarters on Thursday, Licea said he was molested for a three-year period starting at age 7 by a now-deceased former priest at St. Finn Barr, Father John Kavanaugh. He decided to come forward to “speak out for those who cannot speak out for themselves right now.”
“I have been struggling with this for a long time. And I don’t want to be hidden anymore,” said Licea. “I want to make sure that my molester is on that list. They should release the list. They should not be hiding it.”
Licea alleges that two nuns and his teacher, to whom he reported Kavanaugh’s misconduct while he was still a student at the school, failed to intervene.
“That church protected him and left me out,” said Licea, adding that there are likely many others who have survived Kavanaugh’s abuse but have yet to step forward.
Licea’s attorney, Joseph George of the Law Offices of Joseph C. George, PH.D., said that apart from monetary compensation for Licea, the lawsuit is seeking to uncover evidence of additional misconduct and subsequent cover up by church officials, as well as a list of names of “credibly accused perpetrators” within the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
The San Francisco Examiner reported previously that the Archdiocese of San Francisco is named in a separate lawsuit that could force church officials to release the names of alleged abusers and provide documents on clerical offenders.
While most of the state’s diocese have made public their lists of names, San Francisco and Fresno have not yet done so, according to George.
San Francisco church officials initially said they would make their list public last November. More than a year later, it remains under wraps.
Mike Brown, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said on Thursday that he could not comment on Licea’s lawsuit because the church had not yet been served.
He added that San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has “commissioned an independent analyst to go through 4,000 clergy files since the 1950s.”
According to Brown, that “analysis is almost complete.” He said that results will most likely be published “after the first of the new year.”
But Licea’s supporters said that the church is buying time.
“It’s just incredibly irresponsible of church officials to do this, and to claim they are compiling a list. We would and should be outraged if local district attorney said, ‘Well, I’m going after this drug gang with a long violent track record but I’m not going to announce anything until I have every single member identified,” said David Clohessy, the national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
“That puts the public at risk. And that’s what the San Francisco archbishop is doing with this continued secrecy,” added Clohessy. “Every single day the archdiocese hides a predator.”
Licea said that an internal investigation by the church launched years ago failed to hold his alleged abuser — and those who protected him — accountable. In 2005, he reported Kavanaugh to the Archdiocese of San Francisco and was interviewed by an investigator.
Some nine months ago, with the support of his attorney, he reported the abuse to state Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Assembly Bill 218, signed into law in October by Gov. Gavin Newsom, will give sexual abuse survivors of all ages three years to bring civil lawsuits that would have otherwise been blocked by existing statutes.
“It’s the longest window any state in the country has had. This week, New Jersey is opening a similar window. Most of them are one year. In California, we had a window in 2003, one year. So California is historic in that regard,” said Maricar Pascual, an attorney who is also representing Licea.
She added that dioceses across the country have been releasing lists of accused clergy because “they are feeling some pressure.”
But Clohessy said that the “crux of the crisis” is that “while many predator priests have been exposed, suspend and some have been prosecuted,” there are “virtually no consequences whatsoever for church officials who don’t own their promises, who don’t live up to the national policy, who continue to act recklessly and in secret.”
He urged parishioners to use the “power of the purse” to donate to organizations that support survivors of clerical abuse.
“We would encourage Bay Area catholics to donate elsewhere until the archbishop comes clean and to give to organizations that expose and fight abuse, instead of an institution that enables and conceals abuse,” he said.