'Abused by Priests' group urges church to reverse local parish appointment
But diocese backs Rev. Greene as Pleasanton Catholic Community's new leader
A national organization whose mission is to identify abusive priests and warn congregations where they are still practicing plans to step up its efforts to deny a Pleasanton cleric his appointment to lead the Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
Joey Piscitelli, the Northern California Director for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), who demonstrated outside St. Augustine Catholic Church two weeks ago, took his group to the front door of Bishop Allen Vigneron of the Catholic Diocese of Oakland last Friday to protest the decision to name the Rev. Padraig (Patrick) Greene to the top post. Greene is scheduled to succeed the Rev. Dan Danielson, longtime parish leader of the Catholic Community that includes St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church as well as St. Augustine. Danielson is scheduled to continue celebrating Mass for parishioners through the Christmas holiday, and to officially turn his duties as parochial administrator over to Greene on New Year's Day.
But Piscitelli said that a priest who allegedly committed an indecent act in front of an Oakland police officer at a park shouldn't be appointed parish priest for the Catholic Community of Pleasanton.
A police report obtained by the Pleasanton Weekly states Greene was arrested at 1:50 p.m. on March 2, 1999 at a park in Oakland for performing lewd acts on himself in a public bathroom. Oakland police officer "M. Oliver" was assigned to work in plain clothes at the North Oakland Sports Center and entered the men's restroom and observed Greene committing an indecent act at a urinal. After a brief conversation, Oliver arrested Greene.
The charge was later reduced to a misdemeanor by Judge Cecilia Castellanos and ultimately dropped after Greene agreed to participate in a six-month residential treatment program at the St. Michael's Community in St. Louis, Mo. Billed as "a healing place for priests and brothers," St. Michael's, according to an official report also obtained by the Weekly, provided individual sessions for Greene that included exercise, sexuality and interpersonal relationships and spirituality.
In a final report signed by the Rev. Joseph McNamara, Dr. Jack Croughan and Robert Furey, program director, Greene received a clean bill of health.
"We feel as a result of Father Greene's progress here, he can return to the community and be gainfully employed," the report said. "We believe there is a significant decrease of risk of any reoccurrence of the kinds of conduct which precipitated his admission and treatment here."
But Piscitelli disagrees.
"Our concern is that a man with a history of this kind of behavior is not the best choice to lead a community as pastor of both Catholic churches in Pleasanton, and have access to children," Piscitelli said.
SNAP is an organization of men and women who claim they were sexually abused by spiritual elders (Catholic priests, brothers, nuns, ministers, teachers and others).
The Rev. Mark Wiesner, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Oakland, said Bishop Vigneron, who was out of town at the time of the SNAP protests, and the diocese, are standing behind Greene because they think his arrest was "a single isolated incident" and he underwent "therapy and spiritual renewal."
"We were well aware of his past and believe he is doing well now," Wiesner said.
He added that no minors were present when Greene was arrested for lewd conduct at the North Oakland Regional Sports Center on Broadway and the charges against him were dismissed after he agreed to undergo therapy.
However, Piscitelli said the fact that Greene wasn't convicted of any wrongdoing "doesn't mean he was innocent" and he thinks it's unlikely the incident was the only time Greene, who worked at Christ the King Parish in Pleasant Hill at the time, behaved inappropriately.
He added that, "There's a high probability that kids were there at the time," although the police report on the incident doesn't mention any children.
Piscitelli said Oakland police staked out the park because it was suspected of being a place where men solicited sex with youths.
Piscitelli, who with other SNAP members handed out fliers to parishioners at St. Augustine, said only one parishioner was aware of Greene's past and the others were "shocked." He thinks concerns about Greene "will escalate" and contended that some parishioners already have quit the church.
He is also planning to distribute fliers outside Pleasanton schools next week when classes resume, although he has been warned that would be illegal unless the school district approves and he and his group could be arrested otherwise.
Although SNAP did not demonstrate this past Sunday or during the week, parishioners and the church council huddled over discussions about Greene's future. Postings on the Pleasanton Weekly online Town Square forum found opinions divided between those who believe Greene long ago completed therapy successfully and those who think the stigma of the arrest and its current publicity will make it difficult for him to assume the leadership position.
Danielson said the fliers are "misleading." and that said SNAP members "often view the clergy and the church through their own painful difficult experiences."
"This is understandable but it can lead to a misinterpretation of the facts," Danielson added. "Father Greene was and is filled with shame and great remorse over this incident. No doubt the hurt he experienced in his own life and his subsequent ways of dealing with it have contributed to his remarkably effective ministry."
In a statement, Vigneron said, "Father Greene has performed exemplary ministry in the diocese" and "there have been no further incidents" since his arrest.
A text version of the actual 1999 Oakland police report has been posted online at www.pleasantonweekly.com. Once there, visitors can go to the Town Square forum and click on "Police Report on the Rev. Padraig (Patrick) Greene."
The report is available only to registered users.