Leaders of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) are writing Monsignor Myron J. Cotta about Fr. Eric Swearingen, who leads Holy Spirit Church in Fresno. (Cotta has temporarily taken over the Fresno Diocese in the wake of Bishop John Steinbock's recent death.)
In 2006, after hearing witnesses and examining evidence during a civil trial, a jury voted 9-3 that Swearingen
was "more than likely" to have abused A former altar boy when the child was between 12 and 15 years old.
Technically, the trial ended in a hung jury because jurors could not agree on whether or not the Diocese of Fresno
knew about Swearingen's abusive propensities before he
molested the victim.
Swearingen now pastors Holy Spirit Church
in Fresno where he
oversees youth ministry.http://www.holyspiritfresno.catholicweb.com/
In a letter sent to Cotta today, SNAP leaders called Swearingen's assignment "extremely risky."
"Err on the side of children's safety and remove Swearingen
post," said SNAP's letter.
made similar points in a 2007 letter to Steinbock: "An unbiased jury of Swearingen's
peers spent days listening to witnesses and considering evidence.
SNAP wants Cotta to suspend Swearingen
and send notices to all Fresno churches urging anyone who might have evidence that could prove or disprove the allegations against him to speak up.
"There should be no doubt that Swearingen
"Bishop Steinbock continues Swearingen in ministry to this day, choosing to believe the priest is innocent, choosing to protect the priest, and choosing to disregard entirely the judicial finding by a jury that found he had committed the crime of sexual abuse against Juan," says Rocha's attorney, Jeffrey Anderson.
Today, Swearingen serves as priest at Holy Spirit parish in Fresno, where he also oversees the youth ministry.
did not return phone calls, and Steinbock declined requests for an interview."
We believe, now more than ever, that for the safety of children, Fr. Eric Swearingen
should be ousted from ministry.
Having him in a parish, especially in charge of youth ministry, is extremely risky and there's no justification for such recklessness.
Recall, if you will, the Pope's clear pledge this summer to "do everything possible" to prevent future clergy sex crimes.
If you truly honor the Holy Father (and the findings of an impartial Fresno jury), you will err on the side of children's safety and remove Swearingen
You are now, temporarily, in charge of the diocese.
You can't blame others for past misdeeds or carelessness or callousness regarding Swearingen
molests a child today, tomorrow, or in the years ahead, the blame will fall squarely on you.
We ask you to be guided by common sense, common decency, compassion towards kids and by the Pope's words, not by your predecessor's error.
Please, for the safety of children, suspend Swearingen
from this parish.
This month, you appointed Fr. Eric Swearingen
as the new rector at San Joaquin Memorial High School
This is the same Eric Swearingen
who was found by a civil jury (after days of hearing witnesses and examining evidence) to have "more than likely" to have abused Juan Rocha.
- Rescind the appointment of Fr. Swearingen
at Memorial High School
- Notify parents, teachers and administrators in writing and in person about Swearingen's civil conviction and the immediate threat he
poses to kids,
- Remove Swearingen from any and all assignments that provide him access to kids and place him in an inpatient facility where he
can get the treatment he
- Post accurate and up-to-date information about Swearingen
all diocesan communications, including bulletins, web pages and verbal announcements and encourage anyone with information about Swearingen
to contact law enforcement.
Bishop Steinbock is using the generosity of parishioners to finance and harbor Fr. Swearingen, giving him unfettered access to children and vulnerable adults in the Fresno diocese.
Swearingen is now working at Holy Spirit Church in Woodward Park.
An unbiased group of citizens have heard the evidence and determined that Swearingen
molested Juan Rocha.
Of course some people believe Swearingen
Some people believe he's
But, on the most crucial question - guilt or innocence - an impartial jury determined that Swearingen
sexually abused an innocent boy.