More Revelations from Fresno's Bishop

March 19, 2009 7:39:51 PM PDT
More revelations from the Central Valley's top Catholic leader who is facing another round of tough questioning. Bishop John Steinbock spent a second day on the witness stand in a high profile trial. Two brothers accuse the Fresno Catholic Diocese of covering up sex abuse by a priest. Bishop Steinbock sat before a jury of 7 women and 5 men. Steinbock testified he tried to protect his parishioners after learning George Santillan had been abused. Monsignor Anthony Herdegen admitted he molested Santillan and his brother more than 30 years ago.

The abuse happened at Saint John's Parish in Wasco where George served as an altar boy. Santillan's attorneys accuse the bishop of knowing about the abuse in 1995 and doing nothing until 2002. The bishop testified that in 1995 Monsignor Herdegen said he may have been "indiscreet" with two brothers. Soon afterwards Bishop Steinbock wrote this letter to a parishioner: " ... (Monsignor Herdegen) is a very fine priest and that god's people throughout the diocese have been blessed by the many years of his faithful service." The letter mentions nothing about the monsignor's confessed behavior.

Bishop Steinbock testified he punished the monsignor as soon as the two victims came forward in 2002. At that time, Steinbock required a bulletin to be read at all his churches asking for people abused by priests to come forward. In it Steinbock wrote: "We are all shocked by the sad and unfortunate scandals at the church ... Even though the scandals are not as widespread as the secular media may suggest ... the scandals still exist ... "

But Steinbock said the monsignor remains a priest retired in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Steinbock said Herdegen is in good standing despite admitting he molested the boys.

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