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Diocese IDs clerics, volunteer accused of sexual misconduct

Updated April 13, 2019 - 12:40 am

The Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas released a list Friday of 27 priests and six others who served in the Las Vegas Valley and had been “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct with a minor.

The announcement came a week after the Catholic Diocese of Reno named 12 “credibly accused” priests, eight of whom at some point had served in the Las Vegas area. All of those priests also were included in the Las Vegas list.

“I want to offer on behalf of this diocese a heartfelt apology and certainly our commitment to do the best we can do to prevent anything like this from happening again,” Bishop George Leo Thomas, who heads the Las Vegas diocese, said at a news conference Friday.

Thomas noted that the Las Vegas diocese has paid out about $15 million in regard to local allegations of abuse since 1995, whether through settlements, legal fees or counseling costs.

He said the church will work closely with law enforcement going forward.

“Anytime a complaint comes, it will be forwarded on to the local police jurisdiction,” he said.

Eighteen priests on the Las Vegas list are dead, as are two of the others on the list.

Twelve others — nine priests, two brothers and a church volunteer — are alive but were removed from the ministry as far back as 1974 and as recently as this year.

Thomas said anyone who was removed from the church faced credible allegations at the time.

The final clergyman on the list, Brother Philip Napolitano, is facing a canonical process — or a Reno diocese investigation — to “determine (his) guilt,” according to the Las Vegas list. Napolitano once served at St. Christoper in North Las Vegas but as recently as 2007 was based at Bishop Manogue High School in Reno, where he coordinated a student internship program.

When reached by phone Friday, Napolitano said he is aware of the investigation but did not want to comment.

80 years of files

Thomas said the Las Vegas diocese review committee, which investigated the allegations for about eight months, included a group of volunteers with a background in law enforcement and social work. Retired Clark County District Attorney David Roger, who is general counsel for the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, served as the committee’s chairman.

“We went through 80 years of files during this process,” Roger said Friday, noting that the committee used a probable-cause standard, which requires only a “reasonable inference of misconduct,” to determine whether allegations could be considered credible.

Both the Las Vegas and Reno lists included Monsignor Robert Anderson, who died in 1978 but in 1993 was accused of sexually abusing a Henderson boy between 1965 and 1969, according to a lawsuit the victim filed when he was 41. The man said the abuse began when he was about 13.

“The sexual abuse was accomplished, in part, because Monsignor Anderson, a Roman Catholic priest, befriended the minor plaintiff as a parishioner and altar boy and provided him with counseling and guidance,” the lawsuit said at the time. “Monsignor repeatedly assured the minor plaintiff that the sexual contact was appropriate activity.”

Anderson served in churches all over Nevada, including in Reno, Sparks, Ely, Fallon and Zephyr Cove, among other communities, according to the Reno list. But he returned to the Las Vegas area often, first serving at St. Joan of Arc in 1944 and last serving at St. Peter the Apostle in Henderson between 1963 and 1969.

The Las Vegas list also includes the Rev. Mark Roberts, who was removed from the ministry before pleading guilty in 2003 to one count of open and gross lewdness and four counts of child abuse and neglect. Five boys had accused him of sexually and physically abusing them while serving at St. Peter the Apostle.

Roberts was sentenced to probation and transferred to a church facility in Missouri. He still lives in Missouri, according to national sex offender registry records. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.

‘Big first step’

For 20 of those named on the Las Vegas list, including Roberts and Anderson, the Las Vegas diocese did not include information about the origin of the allegations against them.

The diocese did note that 12 of the those on the list faced allegations from dioceses outside Nevada.

One was the Rev. John Feeney, who in 2004 was convicted of four counts of sexual assault against a child in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

Feeney, who was removed from the ministry in 2005, was sentenced to prison but is now on “active community supervision,” records show.

The Rev. Robert Petekiewicz faced complaints in both the Brooklyn borough of New York City and Las Vegas, according to the list. Locally, he served at St. Francis de Sales; St. Joseph, Husband of Mary; and Our Lady of Las Vegas. He was removed from the ministry in 2008.

Thomas, the Las Vegas bishop, said local church employees and volunteers must now undergo a criminal background check. Anyone studying to become a priest also must undergo and pass psychological testing before being allowed to serve in the diocese, he said.

He also said everyone is required to undergo “safe environment” training.

“We have had enough of words and enough of empty promises,” Thomas said. “The church has been in secrecy and denial for a very long time, and I think that bringing everything out into the light is a very important, big first step.”

Thomas added that the diocese is now working to tally the number of Las Vegas survivors.

“The first stage for me was to get the names of the credibly accused out there,” he said. “But we’re not finished yet.”

The Las Vegas diocese was once part of the combined diocese of Reno-Las Vegas, but in 1995, the district split in two. By population, the Las Vegas diocese is nearly four times the size of Reno’s.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

List of clergy crediby accused of sexual abuse of a minor by Las Vegas Review-Journal on Scribd

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