Pope Francis, Eric Swearingen and another failure of “Zero Tolerance”

If Pope Francis were truly sorry for the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church, he’s take a gander at a little Catholic diocese is California, where a cleric found guilty of abuse in a civil trial is still a powerful priest.

Here’s the situation: Fresno priest Eric Swearingen was recently appointed the pastor of a Visalia, California, parish and will oversee four parishes and a school.

Swearingen: Found guilty, still a priest
Swearingen: Found guilty, still a priest

The problem? Well in 2006, a civil jury found 9-3 that Swearingen had sexually abused Army Sgt. Juan Rocha when Rocha was a child. 

How is Fresno Bishop Armando Ochoa able to justify this? Well, his predecessor Bishop John Steinbock said the jury “got it wrong.” But Ochoa takes a different tack.

Swearingen’s trial ended in a mistrial because the jury did not think that the Fresno diocese was liable for the abuse. So Ochoa believes that Swearingen has a “get out of jail free card” and that his civil guilty verdict doesn’t count.

But remember: a CIVIL JURY found the Swearingen HAD abused Rocha. And in a 2008 settlement, the Diocese of Fresno settled with Rocha for a large, undisclosed sum.

This is low-hanging fruit for Francis. Why should victims accept the Pope’s apology when men like Swearingen are frolicking around with full access to children?

In a Visalia Delta-News article about Swearingen’s recent appointment, the cleric’s supporters, including a private eye hired for the family, are still trying to damage Rocha’s credibility. Parishioners applaud how Swearingen can “relate” to them. That alone should send chills down your spine.

How many more court victories does Rocha need to show them that Swearingen must be removed?

The only way that this will change is if parishioners stand up and raise a stink. Refuse to go to Mass. Protest. Hold meetings and invite the media. Tell Bishop Ochoa in a very public way that they deserve better than a priest who was civilly found guilty of child sexual abuse. They must tell Bishop Ochoa and Pope Francis that children and victims are far more important than predator priests. Parents and parishioners NEED to stand up for their children.

Because “Zero Tolerance” is a failure. Francis’ failure.



8 thoughts on “Pope Francis, Eric Swearingen and another failure of “Zero Tolerance”

  1. Allowing priests to MARRY would go a long way to solving some of this national scandal. Between the pedophile priests getting busted and the aging clergy, the Catholic Church may well find someday, they no longer have any priests.
    Unfortunately, some of the old “mossbacks” in the church who were celibate for years, think if it was good enough for them, it’s good enough the incoming crop of priests. That crop is dwindling each and every year.

  2. Remember, that the DA found no evidence and dismissed the case…there was also no witnesses. In a civil case, the bar is lowered.

  3. While in Boston where this scandal began, I continued my contributions to all diocesan requests for money by taping 2 pennies to the form and requested a receipt for my donation. Of course it was ignored, but it felt good to get my two cents worth directly to the powers that be.
    R. O.

  4. If the people of Fresno want to do something about this priest predator being put in charge of another parish, they need to find ways to withhold their charitable donations from the parish and diocese.

    Trust me, the biggest motivator for these hierarchs is money. The power that money brings is all they live for. Threaten their money source, the Vatican hierarchs will react.

    [Earlier this year when the German government threatened to cut-off government funds over their “Bishop Bling” Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, the Vatican immediately moved to remove the bishop. The obvious lesson is don’t do anything to hurt the bottom-line.]

    The Golden Rule of Politics is he/she who has the Gold, Rules! If you grab the clerics and hierarchs by the b _ _ _ s, their hearts and minds will certainly follow.

    Let’s get serious, People. We have to stop acting like sheeple if we are to ever reform and renew the priesthood.

  5. This is a CLASSIC Archbishop John Myers move. The Newark New Jersey Archbishop that regularly protects predators. He pulled a similar stunt with the Father Michael Fugee in New Jersey. Thankfully, the masses screamed foul and the local prosecutor took some action. Archbishop Myers spokesperson was flip flopping all over the place as he went from defending/justifying the priests violation of a court agreement saying he was under supervision the entire time to ” we didn’t know – he acted without our knowledge”.

  6. Thank you for the information. Tragically, the Catholic Church is not getting it and if history is allowed to repeat itself, never will!

    The Church continues to believe that because it has the financial and legal resources to pay billions of dollars in civil lawsuit settlements that evidence YEARS of failures to protect children from sex abuse crimes and other dangers committed by employees under its supervision, it will possess a free pass out of jail for life. It takes a lot of self-serving arrogance, above-the-law mentality and some IMO corrupt Church attorneys to continue promoting Fresno priest Eric Swearingen and still believe he and others should not be held accountable morally.

    In Orange County, California, former Catholic priest Gerald Plesetz actually fathered a child with a minor female student at Mater Dei HS, signed adoption papers in San Diego, and proceeded to secure employment with the Orange County Healthcare Agency for the next 25 plus years. Former Catholic priests Michael Harris and John Lenihan (just to mention 2 out of many) were also given life protections after they destroyed the lives of minor children. Yet, despite the public disclosure of priest Plesetz’ past acts, elected government officials and Diocese of Orange attorneys have never been held accountable for placing precious children in harm’s way and it appears they care less.

    In Los Angeles, California, a former Charminade Catholic HS teacher Paul Chapel, was involved with inappropriate and/or illegal acts while employed by the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese, was criminally tried for allegations involving sexual molestation of his son’s friend (mistrial) and went on to secure employment with the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he destroyed more lives because of his ability and position that allowed him to to do. Now the LAUSD must pay the financial price for both Chapel and the LA Archdiocese’s failures. See the most recent article about Chapel and the LAUSD’s all of a sudden desire to settle civil lawsuits filed against it and others like former teacher Paul Chapel (www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-lausd-molest-settle-20140712-story.html). And again, the Los Angeles Archdiocese has never been held accountable for ENABLING Paul Chapel to continue harming precious children.

    IMO, especially in California, where civil and criminal court records overwhelmingly show that MANY Catholic Church employees and members of the clergy, placed their own self-survival, financial portfolios and reputations far above the protections of those who cannot protect themselves–ALL CHILDREN. If the FBI and/or USDOJ fail to hold Church officials and their attorneys accountable as mandated by federal laws, then in all honesty, who is going to stop the future harm that will destroy more lives and who is going to financially support those suffering with the life-long effects that abuse creates?

  7. “after a military psychologist ruled he possessed an anti-social disorder that made him a risk to himself and others”

    That says a LOT about priest Eric Swearingen.

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