6 priests accused of sexually abusing kids served in SLO County, diocese report shows

At least six Catholic priests who worked in parishes throughout San Luis Obispo County were among those named in a recently released Diocese of Monterey report on clergymen accused of sexually abusing children.

Some of the local priests were defendants in sex abuse lawsuits filed in the early 2000s, while others had never been accused publicly.

The diocese oversees parishes in San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.

The report was released weeks after California Attorney General Xavier Becerra began soliciting information about clergy sexual abuse incidents in the state in November.

In October, a Camarillo man filed a lawsuit against California bishops seeking records on priests accused of abuse.

Local priests accused of abuse

The Diocese of Monterey report names 30 “credibly accused” clergymen — a term that includes priests, deacons, religious men and candidates for ordination — as part of a list compiled by law firm Weintraub Tobin.

Paul Gaspari, an attorney with Weintraub Tobin, did not return repeated calls from The Tribune on Friday.

Three of the clergymen — the Rev. Alberto Battagliola, the Rev. Patrick Daly and the Rev. Thomas Neary — worked at Mission San Luis Obispo in the 1960s and 1970s, according to previous Tribune articles and a 2015 diocese directory.

Daly also worked at St. Joseph’s Church in Cayucos in the 1920s. All three men are now dead, according to the report.

In 2003, a San Luis Obispo man filed a lawsuit against the Diocese, claiming the organization didn’t prevent Battagliola from molesting him at Mission San Luis Obispo when he was in high school.

According to the diocese directory, other priests worked in parishes on the North Coast and in the South County.

The Rev. Gregory Kareta worked at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Pismo Beach in the 1970s. The Rev. Colman O’Connor was a priest at St. Joseph’s Church from the late 1970s through the mid-1990s.

The Rev. Paul Valdez worked at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Los Osos in the mid-1990s.

Kareta was charged with molesting a minor in 2003, but the case was dismissed after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law extending the statute of limitations.

Kareta and O’Connor are now dead, and Valdez recently had his ministry faculties removed by the diocese.

Survivors say the list should be longer

Although the report was released “to promote transparency and trust,” some abuse survivors feel it does just the opposite by not including the full list of accused priests.

Joey Piscitelli of the Northern California chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said there are additional clergymen who should have been part of the report.

“I’m disappointed,” he said. “It actually makes me feel worse, because they haven’t learned from their mistakes.”

One such clergyman is Steve Whelan, who Piscitelli said abused him at Salesian High School in Richmond. Piscitelli was awarded $600,000 in a civil lawsuit against Whelan in 2006.

After working in Richmond, Whelan later worked at St. Francis Jr. High School in Watsonville, Piscitelli said.

He said dioceses frequently decline to include clergymen from religious orders — such as Jesuits and Salesians — in their reports, even though such priests commonly work in Catholic schools.

“It’s a tactic to make it look like there are less molesting priests in the diocese than there actually are,” Piscitelli said.

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Lindsey Holden writes about housing, North County communities and everything in between for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. She became a staff writer in 2016 after working for the Rockford Register Star in Illinois. Lindsey is a native Californian raised in the Midwest and earned degrees from DePaul and Northwestern universities.