With the Catholic Church seen by some as a criminal enterprise that covers up sex crimes by pedophile priests, the issue of whether there should be a Department of Justice investigation into allegations of Catholic clerical sex abuse has achieved national attention. But one of the members of the Democratic Party's "new coalition of conscience”– just created to capture the White House – had no conscience on the matter of justice for victims of Catholic priest sex abuse crimes. Her name is Kamala Harris, the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate.
Harris for years claimed to be a fighter on behalf of “justice for survivors of sexual assault, sex abuse, and rape.” But as district attorney in San Francisco and California Attorney General, Harris never prosecuted any pedophile priest, despite hundreds of potential cases and demands for justice from victims.
Joey Piscitelli, a victim of one of those pedophile priests, told me, “My opinion of Kamala Harris's ‘Coalition of Conscience’ is that it obviously excludes caring about rape victims of clergy.”
Elizabeth Yore, an international child advocate attorney, says, “Kamala Harris joins the ranks of many big city power-hungry prosecutors who placed their own political interests ahead of child victims. Harris cannot claim that she is a warrior for child abuse victims. She chose to side with the powerful Catholic institutions over the suffering children. This is her legacy and those of us who fight for children are not going to let the American public forget that Kamala Harris protected predators at the expense of young vulnerable victims.”
Claiming to be concerned about the problem of pedophile priests and cover-ups through the Catholic bureaucracies across the U.S., the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops authorized a study that was issued in 2004. Estimates are that the sex abuse scandal has cost the church as much as $4 billion in financial settlements to victims.
Harris appears to have a two-faced approach to the Catholic Church – one of scorn toward ordinary Catholics who follow traditional church teachings, such as opposition to abortion, and the other of deference to officials of the hierarchy who get caught in cover-ups of sexual abuse of children in Catholic institutions.
Citing Senator Harris’s treatment of now-U.S. District Judge Brian Buescher during his Senate confirmation hearing, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calls Harris “the most openly anti-Catholic bigot to be on a national ticket in modern times.” She questioned how he could belong to the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization of almost 2 million practicing Catholic men that is known for its pro-life activities.
On the other hand, her failure to prosecute pedophile priests indicates a deference to the Catholic hierarchy, perhaps stemming from dependence on political campaign donations from lawyers and law firms representing the Catholic Church in sex abuse and other cases.
Harris is a non-Catholic who attended a Baptist Church and Hindu Temple growing up. Her running mate, presidential candidate Joe Biden, is a Catholic who has been accused of sexually assaulting former employee Tara Reade and was denied communion over his pro-abortion stance.
After Biden picked Harris as his running mate, outlets on the right and left have seized upon the documented fact that Kamala Harris’s record as a prosecutor included bowing down to the Catholic hierarchy in California that was determined to protect pedophile priests.
Joey Piscitelli, a Catholic from birth until he was molested by a priest at Salesian High School in Richmond, California, filed suit and received $650,000 awarded by a jury on June 26, 2006. The Catholic Church appealed the verdict and lost.
In a statement to this columnist, Piscitelli cited the facts of his case, saying, “in 2003 I sued the Salesian Order of San Francisco, and Fr. Stephen Whelan, a San Francisco priest, for child molestation, which occurred when I was a kid. Shortly before that, I visited the office of the San Francisco district attorney (DA), who was Terence Hallinan. Hallinan's team had investigated the Diocese of San Francisco, and had accumulated thousands of documents (files) that they were going to use to prosecute clergy sex molesters and rapists, name those predators, and take action against the diocese for enabling sex abusers for decades.”
However, things changed when Kamala Harris beat Hallinan in the race for DA in late 2003, and she became the new DA in 2004. “Her office then had the files,” he noted. “I wrote Kamala Harris and told her that the rapist who molested me was the current Pastor at a cathedral (Saints Peter and Paul) in San Francisco, in 2003, and I was suing him. I asked her if she had files on him. She ignored me. She ignored everybody who asked her what she was going to do with the files.”
Piscitelli said that he personally protested at her office several times, and passed out flyers condemning her for her inaction about clergy abusers. He added, “I also protested and did events as a SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) leader in San Francisco for years concerning Harris, and her horrendous behavior.”
He explained, “Several newspapers and media reps asked for the files, and petitioned for copies from the court [but] she refused to take any action against any clergy abusers and the diocese of San Francisco for years.” Harris responded to the San Francisco Weekly that she would not release the files, because she was “protecting the victims.”
But Piscitelli explained that when files are released concerning child molestation, the names of the underaged victims are always blacked out, so that the names are not seen by anybody. Only the clergy abusers’ names would be on the files for everybody to see.
“So Kamala Harris is not protecting victims,” he said. “She was protecting and shielding rapists, child molesters, and the Diocese who enabled them.”
Her refusal to prosecute pedophile priests occurred during the time that Harris was the top prosecutor for San Francisco, for approximately 7 years, and during the time she was California State Attorney General, for approximately another 7 years.
“During that tenure,” he said, “she has never prosecuted not even one clergy molester. There are thousands of clergy molestation victims in California. As victims of clergy abuse, we relied upon her as the top prosecutor in California for 14 years, to get us justice, and she betrayed us.”
Asked why Joe Biden would pick her as a running mate, he said, “I imagine that the clergy abuse crisis is not at the top of their priority list.”
It appears Harris was nominated as the vice presidential candidate because Biden had announced earlier that he would nominate a woman of color to be his running mate.
“I have accumulated a list of 18 accused child molesters who have been placed at one time or another at Salesian High School in Richmond,” he said. “Most were sued, some were convicted.”
CNN, a news agency enthusiastic about the Biden-Harris ticket, confirmed in a major 2019 investigative report that pedophile priests operated at the school for years, and that Piscitelli was one of the victims.
In terms of the personal cost, he said, “I was a devout Catholic until I was sexually abused by a Catholic priest. Shortly after the abuse incidents—there were many—I abandoned Catholicism forever.” He said he turned to earth-centered paganism as an alternative, but now says “I have no religion. The molesters and rapists at my school annihilated that for me.”
In contrast to Kamala Harris doing absolutely nothing about clergy abusers in California, the next Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, moved aggressively. “I met with Becerra’s team in November 2019, along with other SNAP members about clergy abusers in California,” he said. Shortly after that, he said, Becerra opened up a statewide investigation into clergy abuse in all Dioceses in California , and established an abuse forum on his State of California web page, where victims and concerned citizens can make complaints and offer information online. In addition to that, Becerra ordered the Dioceses NOT to destroy their own clergy abuse files, and to keep and send the files to his office for investigation.
By contrast, the files in the possession of former attorney general and DA Kamala Harris never surfaced. Reports indicate that San Francisco remains one of the last archdioceses in the nation to provide a list of pedophile priest abusers.
While some Catholic dioceses are going bankrupt, in part because of financial settlements to sexual abuse victims, the U.S. Roman Catholic Church received billions of taxpayer dollars through the coronavirus Paycheck Protection Program designed to help businesses with forgivable loans survive the economic shutdown.
Instead of providing tax dollars to such an institution, there is growing sentiment that the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a federal law intended to combat organized crime in the U.S., should be used to investigate the U.S. Catholic Church.
The issue is one that the Democratic ticket of Biden-Harris and the Republican ticket of Trump-Pence should not be allowed to avoid.© Cliff Kincaid
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.