A Contra Costa County parish priest has been placed on administrative leave after his Roman Catholic diocese learned that another priest, who faces accusations of abusing children, was allowed to celebrate mass in the parish after he had been removed from ministry.
Rev. Gerard Moran, the pastor of St. Isidore Parish in Danville, was put on leave and will not reside in the rectory while the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland conducts an investigation, according to Bishop Michael C. Barber, who sent a recent letter to parishioners explaining the move.
In his letter, Barber said he learned this month that Rev. James Patrick Foley had celebrated mass and other sacraments at St. Isidore, but appeared to lack the required "letter of suitability" confirming his good moral character and fitness to work with children.
"I have ordered an investigation of how this violation could have taken place, so that measures can be taken to prevent it in the future," Barber wrote.
Foley is one of eight priests whose names were made public this month by the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, which said the priests are the subject of credible accusations of sexual misconduct with children.
A police report was filed with the Sacramento Police Department against Foley in 2010, accusing him of sexual misconduct years earlier with two boys under 18 in the Sacramento area, according to a department spokeswoman.
As reported by KQED, the San Diego diocese continued writing letters of suitability for Foley until 2015, when it stopped recommending him as a priest. These letters are required for priests who want to work in a diocese other than their home diocese, under the Catholic Church's national protocols for protecting minors.
Helen Osman, a spokeswoman for the Oakland diocese, confirmed to KQED that Foley celebrated the sacraments at St. Isidore this year, possibly as recently as this month. She said the diocese office can find no record of a letter of suitability for him in its files.
In addition, Foley was the featured speaker at San Damiano Retreat July 27-29. San Damiano is a sprawling Franciscan retreat on a hill overlooking Danville, with gardens, guest rooms and a large main building with a gift shop.
The event was billed as a silent weekend retreat, called "The Beatitudes: Jesus' 8-Step Program for Happiness." Forty-four adults attended, including 34 women, 10 men and no children, according to retreat director, Peter Wise.
Wise told KQED that no research was done on Foley prior to the retreat, “because of his reputation as (a) well-respected teacher and presenter.” Wise wrote in an email that, “the understanding here was that Fr. Foley was in good standing and able to work in this diocese.”
To date, the Oakland diocese is "not aware of any children or vulnerable adults being harmed in any way by Father Foley," Bishop Barber wrote in his letter to St. Isidore parishioners. This was confirmed to KQED more recently by the Oakland diocese spokeswoman Helen Osman. However, Osman said it would be a "reasonable assumption" that children had been around Foley while he was officiating in the parish. The diocese has hired an outside firm to conduct the investigation, she said.
Barber urged anyone with allegations or information about sexual misconduct involving Foley to contact police.
Kevin Eckery, spokesman for the San Diego diocese, confirmed that Foley remains attached to the diocese there, and is technically still a priest. But, he said the San Diego diocese removed Foley’s “faculties” in 2015, stripping him of the authority to work as a priest, to conduct mass, or to perform other sacraments. In addition, Foley is not supposed to wear a priest's collar or refer to himself as “Father Foley.” While Foley has not been laicized, or "defrocked," Eckery said that could not be ruled out in the future.
In recent email and text correspondence, Foley told KQED the allegations are "false" and said he has not ministered to children since 1995.