Church leaders are speaking out in support of a newly-designated parish leader for the Catholic Community of Pleasanton after members of a nationally-affiliated group protested his appointment because of an arrest for indecent exposure eight years ago.
Joey Piscitelli, Northern California Director for an organization called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the Rev. Padraig Greene was arrested in Oakland March 2, 1999 for lewd sexual conduct at a sports facility frequented by children. Piscitelli said Greene admitted to the conduct and spent six months in a rehabilitation center in St. Louis.
Greene was recently named by Bishop Allen Vigneron of the Catholic Diocese of Oakland to succeed the Rev. Dan Danielson, longtime parish leader of the Catholic Community, which includes St. Augustine and St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic churches in Pleasanton. Danielson is scheduled to continue celebrating Mass for parishioners through the Christmas holidays, and to officially turn his duties as Parochial Administrator over to Greene on Jan. 1.
Piscitelli and several others distributed fliers last Sunday at St. Augustine, saying they wanted to "warn parishioners" about Greene.
"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. "This information should be known to parents in the community and awareness is always the best tool to combat the potential danger of sex offenses to innocent children in Pleasanton."
But Danielson said SNAP's fliers were misleading.
"This is a group of people who are survivors of clergy child sexual abuse and they often view the clergy and the church through their own painful difficult experiences," Danielson said. "This is understandable but it can lead to a misinterpretation of the facts."
According to Danielson, when Greene was arrested there were no children or minors involved, nor were there any nearby at the time. Only the police officer who observed this behavior and subsequently arrested Greene was present. Upon completion of therapy, the charges were dismissed by the court. Greene, who came here from Ireland, became associate pastor in Pleasanton after completing his therapy, and served here for five years, before being reassigned to ministry in the diocese since that time.
"The Diocese of Oakland holds as one of its highest concerns the protection and safety of children and all parishioners and is confident in the ministry Fr. Greene will continue to bring to the people of Pleasanton," Bishop Vigneron said.
Michael Gallagher, chairman of the Pastoral Transition Team for the Catholic Community here, added:
"An overwhelming majority of the leaders of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton are in full and loving support of Fr. Padraig Greene at this time. This is a very difficult time for our parish, but our church teaches forgiveness and redemption. Many believe he is going to be a fantastic pastor for our community."
Sandra Ryan of Pleasanton agreed.
"I've been in the parish for 17 years and was here when Fr. Greene came for five years of service," she said. "He's a wonderful priest and provided outstanding ministry. Besides being a psychologist, he is also very spiritual and creative in presenting religious issues to our community."
But at least one parishioner--Theresa Aimar--strongly disagrees. In emails to the media and others, she is calling for Greene to "step down and save Pleasanton's unity."
"For the sake of the Catholic Church's reputation and to save the unity of Pleasanton's Catholic Community, please step down," Aimar stated in an email to the Pleasanton Weekly. "This is just going to go on and on and on. The concerned parishioners will not stop until they get a pastor who doesn't have a past sexual offense erased and then hidden from them. The other half of the Catholic community will fight to keep you for all of your hard work. The damage is done. The divide is strong. The fight is mounting. I don't want friends to stake sides and it is already happening."