Priests At California Catholic High School Abused Children For Decades: Report

An in-depth special report by CNN reveals horrific details about child sex abuse linked to the Catholic Church, which occurred at a California high school for decades, while the incidents were apparently covered up, and children were threatened not to talk.

The first installments of the investigative report were published by CNN late last month, outlining abuse at Salesian High School (formerly Don Bosco College) in Richmond, California. It includes numerous stories of sexual abuse by the Salesian priests posted at the school, and how those incidents were covered up by the Roman Catholic Church.

When the children reported the incidents, which included exhibitionism, molestation, physical assaults and outright rape, in some cases the priests were reassigned, but in others, children were beaten, threatened and ordered not to talk, according to CNN’s findings.

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The former students, often emotionally scarred, told their stories, and in some cases have filed sexual abuse lawsuits and won. Some priests went to jail, some left the order of Salesians, but others reportedly still work within the order.

The first installments of the report focused on four priests, Bernard Dabbene, Stephen Whelan, Salvatore Billante and Nick Reina. The abuse reportedly dates back to at least the late 50s and continued for decades. All of the priests belonged to an order called the Salesians of Don Bosco, which was originally founded to help poor children during the industrial revolution.

Dabbene was caught as recently as November 2000, in a car with his pants unzipped with a 17-year-old boy. And in 2013, Reina, a former president of the school, was awarded, despite the church knowing he had been credibly accused of child sex abuse at least 10 years earlier, the report indicates.

The investigative report comes just a couple months after the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and the dioceses of Fresno, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernadino and San Diego, launched the California Independent Compensation Program (ICP), which is designed to resolve credible claims involving sex abuse by Catholic priests and other members of the clergy that stretch back for decades.

The program was created with independent mediator Kenneth R. Feinberg, who has been involved in some of the highest profile settlement funds in recent years, and Camille S. Biros, in conjunction with California Bishops.

The fund came amid increasing awareness about the extent of clergy sex abuse cases that have occurred for decades, and other high-profile situations where abused children are not comfortable stepping forward until decades later.

In August 2018, a grand jury report highlighted cases involving at least 90 Catholic priests accused of sex abuse in the Pittsburgh area, involving allegations and cover-ups that spanned decades.

That report indicated that the Catholic Church of Pennsylvania covered up abuse involving priests who abused more than 1,000 victims, mostly children, over the course of 70 years. After 90 of those priests were identified, it sparked investigations by the Justice Department and states’ attorneys general nationwide.

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