New clergy sex abuse/cover up suit filed in Oakland

Law Offices of Joseph C. George

It’s one of the first filed under brand new state law

Catholic officials ‘did nothing to stop serial predator,’ it charges

What: At a news conference using their actual names, three survivors of childhood sexual abuse by a serial predator priest will announce the filing of their lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Oakland.

It’s among the very first such suits to be filed under a just-signed California law that gives potentially thousands of child sex abuse victims three years to sue those who committed and concealed abuse.


TOMORROW, Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 11:30 a.m.

Outside of the Cathedral of Christ the Light, 2121 Harrison St. in Oakland


-- Sharon McCann, a plaintiff and survivor of clergy childhood sexual abuse by Breen, who reported Breen’s childhood sexual abuse

-- Donna Stone, a plaintiff and survivor of clergy childhood sexual abuse by Breen

-- Judy Ash, a plaintiff and survivor of clergy childhood sexual abuse by Breen (available by telephone), will have a statement read on her behalf

-- Dr. Joseph C. George, attorney for survivors of childhood sexual abuse

-- Melanie Sakoda of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests)

-- Tim Stier, an Oakland native, author and whistleblower priest who worked for 25 years in local parishes until 2005 when he chose exile from active ministry began advocating for marginalized groups within the church.


The cases is against a long-time perpetrator, Monsignor Vincent Breen, who was at Holy Spirit parish for 29 years (1953-1982).

Three women, each a graduate of Holy Spirit Elementary School in Fremont (in 1968, 1974, and 1975), filed one of the first lawsuits following Governor Gavin Newsom’s October 13 signing of Assembly Bill 218. This new measure gives survivors of childhood sexual assault, regardless of their age, a three-year “window” to bring a civil lawsuit against any perpetrator and employer or third party that was aware of misconduct

that created a risk of childhood sexual assault.

It also extends the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual assault, giving survivors more time to file civil lawsuits: up to their 40th birthday (used to be 26th birthday), or within five years (used to be three years) from the date of discovery of a psychological injury caused by the childhood sexual assault.

“With this historic new state law, survivors, like my brave clients, can now can seek damages, obtain justice and expose once trusted but corrupt adults who assaulted the innocent and ignored or hid such crimes,” said Dr. George.

• The Diocese of Oakland knew of Father Vincent Breen’s sexual abuse of children at Holy Spirit.

• In 1967, Sharon McCann (then 13 years old) disclosed Breen’s sexual abuse of Sharon to Sister Jean Higgins, the principal of Holy Spirit.

• The Diocese of Oakland failed to report the sexual abuse to any law enforcement agency and child protective services agencies or warn their students and their parents.

• Fremont Police Department concluded that Father Vincent Breen sexually abused at least eight (8) young girls in 1981. The actual number is closer to 100.

*** Additional Information / Chronology Below


Dr. Joseph C. George -- (916) 802-7949 cell, (916) 641-7300 office

Maricar A. Pascual -- (707) 342-4722 cell, (916) 641-7300 office

Melanie Sakoda -- (925) 708-6175 cell

Tim Stier -- (510) 557-4917 cell

Monsignor Vincent Ignatius Breen/Oakland Chronology

1962 Bishop Begin installed.

1953 – 1982 Breen at Holy Spirit


REDACTED Had been associated with Holy Spirit church for approximately 17 years and known Breen for 20 years. 15 years prior (1966), began hearing rumors that Breen was a person parents should keep their daughters away from. One unnamed person recalls telling him do not leave your daughters around Breen approximately 8 years prior (1973). Had some of the girls and boys tell him that Breen gets the girls in the rectory and grabs their breasts 5 years ago (1976), “very active in the church.” Was appointed to a committee.

1967 Sharon McCann’s mother called and scheduled a meeting between her daughter, Sharon McCann, and Sister Jean Higgins (1966 – 1973) (Smith) (Principal). Sharon McCann (1 of 4 daughters attending Holy Spirit) met with then Principal Sister Jean Higgins to discuss the abuse she, her sisters, and other girls had suffered. Sister Jean Higgins told Sharon McCann that she had to report it to the Diocese. After the meeting with Sharon McCann, Sister Jean reiterated that she “needed to contact the Diocese.” Victim Sharon McCann indicated that the abuse started in 1960 at 6 years old and continued through 1967 / 12 years old. Sharon McCann was not molested during 1968 (her 8th grade year), leading victim McCann to then believe Sister Jean Higgins did report the abuse as promised. During victim Sharon McCann’s 8th grade year she was slapped by Monsignor Breen and called “insolent”. Being at a loss as to what she had done to be considered insolent, she concluded it was because she had told on him.

1973 The sometime principal of Holy Spirit School, Sister Jean T. Higgins (same as above), taught at Holy Spirit from 1966 – 1973. In the spring of 1973, then principal Sister Higgins again received reports from 8th grade girls that they were being sexually abused by Monsignor Breen, and that they had seen Monsignor Breen also fondling the breasts of some of the 3rd and 4th grade girls when he was on the school yard during lunch. As a result of the disclosure of the childhood sexual abuse of minors, Sister Higgins reported the crimes to the Diocese. The following year, Sister Higgins was transferred to an elementary school in Sacramento, and no adverse action was taken against Monsignor Breen by the Diocese of Oakland. Sister Higgins also conveyed her knowledge of the childhood sexual abuse of Holy Spirit children by Monsignor Breen to her successor (the new principal) at Holy Spirit School.

1977 Meeting with Diocese of Oakland and Jane Doe 48 (referred as a victim in PR), accompanied by Ed Panconi (DOB 1962). Letter detailing abuse of at least 3 girls. “We will look into this”. Panconi Teen Club President was aware of Breen abusing girls and became aware of it in 1976. Panconi said that because of the complaints he received something had to be done and he got together with Jane Doe 48 DOB: 7/1960 and they contacted the Diocese and advised them of the situation. Wrote letter which outlined what was going on and hand carried it to the Diocese. On one occasion, the Diocesan official advised Panconi that Breen only had 2 or 3 years before he retired and that would get him out and thus eliminating the problem. Msgr. George Francis of St. Bede was supposedly assigned to investigate. Francis later accused of molesting 9 minor girls.

4/26/77 Bishop Begin dies.

6/30/77 John Cummins installed as Bishop.

1977 Sister Barbara Carroll (now deceased) voiced reports about Breen molesting girls to the Vicar General, Father William Macchi. Nothing was done and she was transferred to St. Bede in Hayward.

1978 Joe Elam (Basketball Coach) had a meeting with Bishop Cummins and 6 – 8 other adults to “Save the Nuns.” He was removed as coach.

Joe Elam went with a group to the Bishop to “save the nuns.” Six – ten people went to the meeting. They actually met with the Bishop. His brother in law was in charge. He said the conclusion was that Holy Spirit donated a lot of money to the Diocese, it was always in the black and nothing was going to happen to alter that situation. Elam went to save the nuns because the nuns kept getting in trouble because they were reporting Breen to the Diocese.

1980 Girl in Police Report said she and several other girls reported Breen to a Holy Spirit teacher the year prior to the police report and was told to say “no” to Breen.

1981 Father Crespin was Chancellor of Diocese.

12/11/81 Fremont Police Dept. Report, Detective D.J. Duthler.

The investigation by the detectives of the Fremont Police Department found that Breen sexually abused at least eight girls, ages 7 to 14. The abuse ranged from fondling and French kissing to digital penetration. Multiple failures of mandated reporters at Holy Spirit noted. In the end, Defendant DIOCESE, police and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office reached an “agreement” that no criminal charges would be filed if Breen retired, left the area and sought counseling. Breen died in 1986.

5/10/05 Bishop Vigneron asks for pardon from 100 Holy Spirit parishioners. First time Diocese acknowledges Breen’s sexual misconduct. Offered support for victims. “Betrayal of trust by the parish priest Vincent Breen”

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