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March 10, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 5   •   Oakland, CA

articles list

Priest reinstated to active ministry after allegation found to be unsubstantiated

Antioch cemetery adds mausoleum, columbarium, roads and vineyards

St. Joan of Arc Church in San Ramon undergoes major interior renovation

Young engineer one of 214 to be baptized at Easter Vigil

Light a fundamental part of Easter Vigil celebration

Good Friday devotions to include Pergolesi’s ‘Stabat Mater’ at St. Augustine’s, Oakland

Fair Trade products available for Easter

Pope reformulates Good Friday prayer for Jews

Vatican Secretary of State discusses Church-Cuba issues with Raul Castro

Philippine bishops condemn government’s culture of corruption

Philippine colonel helps launch quiet revolution for peace-building

Young Palestinian Christians struggle with identity in Holy Land

Ecumenism strong despite challenges

Priests, seminarians increase globally

CCISCO honors Contra Costa youth for leadership, service

New acolytes prepare to become permanent deacons in diocese

À Côté chef to prepare three-course meal to benefit St. Vincent de Paul program

Father Milt Eggerling, former missionary and parish priest, dies in Boston at 86

Concord parish remembers ministry of Father Joseph Welch who died Feb. 28

EWTN to broadcast Holy Week liturgies


Ethicists offer guidelines on removal of nutrition from patients

Ambiguities cloud moral issues near end of life












Priest reinstated to active ministry after
allegation found to be unsubstantiated

Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron has reinstated Father Chris Berbena to active ministry after a lengthy review found that an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor while the priest was serving in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was unsubstantiated.

Throughout the nearly two-year period of investigation by the Diocesan Review Board during which Father Berbena could not perform any priestly duties, he steadfastly maintained his innocence.

In a Feb. 24 statement to parishioners of St. John Vianney Parish in Walnut Creek, where Father Berbena was in residence, Bishop Vigneron said the diocese first learned of the accusation in February 2004 when the Los Angeles Archdiocese posted Father Berbena’s name on its website, along with the names of every priest who had been accused of sexual misconduct against a minor while working in the archdiocese over a 50-year period.

The diocese removed Father Berbena from ministry, a procedure followed in all allegations of sexual misconduct with minors.

However, because the Review Board could not obtain the name of the accuser nor the details of the accusation in order to conduct an investigation, Father Berbena was returned to ministry as parochial vicar at St. John Vianney Parish, said Dominican Sister Glenn Anne McPhee, diocesan chancellor and victims assistance coordinator.

The alleged victim had presented the accusation to the Franciscan Order of Santa Barbara in February 2004, claiming the abuse occurred in 1980 when Father Berbena was a Franciscan priest serving in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Father Berbena became a priest of the Oakland Diocese in May 1997.

In March 2006, the Franciscan Order reached a settlement with the accusers of 10 members of the order, including Father Berbena. This global settlement was made without any admission of guilt and, in Father Berbena’s case, without an opportunity to object to the accusation, said Father Mark Wiesner, diocesan communications director.

However, the diocese determined that its policy required that Father Berbena be again removed from active ministry, and the Review Board reopened its investigation. During that time, Father Berbena continued to live in the rectory at St. John Vianney Parish under the supervision of the pastor, but he was not able to function as a priest.

Bishop Vigneron told parishioners in his Feb. 24 statement that the Review Board conducted a “rigorous and detailed investigation” and reached the conclusion that the allegation was unsubstantiated.

The Review Board is made up of a retired judge, two civil lawyers and one canon lawyer, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sexual abuse, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, a pastor, a representative of an insurance company and the diocesan chancellor.

“I have complete trust in the diocesan Review Board,” wrote Bishop Vigneron in his message to parishioners.

In addressing the length of time spent on the investigation, Bishop Vigneron wrote that he felt “morally bound and committed to abide by the procedures we have instituted to ensure the safety of our children and I had to let the process run its course no matter how much time it took.”

“Surely this was an excruciating length of time for Father Berbena who has steadfastly maintained his innocence while his good name and the fidelity of his priesthood have been questioned,” he wrote.

Upon hearing the bishop’s statement, which was read at all weekend Masses, parishioners broke into spontaneous applause. Father Berbena celebrated Mass the following Sunday.

This is the second time a diocesan priest has been reinstated after an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor could not be substantiated.

Father George Crespin returned to active ministry in May 2005, three months after he had been removed following an accusation that he had acted inappropriately with a minor while serving as pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Union City 30 years earlier.

The U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People requires the removal of any priest or deacon who faces a charge of abuse. The Review Board conducts a full investigation and reports their findings to the bishop. If the charge is found to be true, the removal is permanent.

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