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Cheryl Buchanan
Cheryl Buchanan
Contributor •

Zero Tolerance in Fresno Diocese is a Myth

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Having been raised a Catholic, I believe in forgiveness, reconcilliation, and second chances. Having spent five years working on child molestation cases and coming to a deeper understanding of the psychosis that compels adults to habitually torture and victimize children, and the lifelong damage that those children struggle with as adults, I also believe we have a responsibility that preempts all other man made loyalties. You do not put a known child molester in charge of a school, no matter what affiliations, history, or beliefs you may share.

When Bishop Steinbock appointed Fr. Eric Swearingen as Rector of San Joaquin Memorial High School in Fresno, this December, he made it clear that the “zero tolerance policy” against child molestation in the Fresno Diocese is a myth and the parishioners are on their own. Bishop Steinbock showed his support for the accused priest thoughout the 2007 civil trial when a jury found, by a preponderance of the evidence that the priest had indeed molested an alter boy between the ages of 12-15. In fact, Swearingen even acknowledged showering and sleeping with this particular boy. Some parishioners at the time expressed their belief that the Diocese would be best to handle Swearingen’s future, internally, rather than the State system.

We now see that Bishop Steinbock’s continued “support” of Fr. Swearingen is not in fact support at all. It is the equivalent of putting an alcoholic in a liquor store, or a problem gambler in a casino. If Bishop Steinbock truly cared about anyone, including Fr. Swearingen, he would keep him as far away from children, especially young adolescent boys as possible.

Bishop Steinbock will not protect the children, so now who will? Enough parents and parisionhers probably could if they gathered together and made their voices heard. Next time another victim comes forward, I hope that he or she has their support, because it will be one of their children.