What happened in Pennsylvania doesn’t necessarily stay in Pennsylvania. As I suspected, some of the priests named in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report have ties to California. Priests accused of sexual abuse of minors were often transferred to other dioceses so that they would go undetected by law enforcement authorities and parishioners.
This was the case with Father Ernest Paone who volunteered at least two San Diego County parishes while on loan from the Pittsburgh Diocese for three decades, from the 1960’s until at least the 1990’s.
The San Diego Diocese told NBC 7 Paone lived in the San Diego area from the 60s to at least the 90s, and volunteered at Mary Star of the Sea in Oceanside and St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Encinitas during that time.
NBC 7 obtained a Confirmation mass bulletin from 2015 that listed him as one of the class member’s Baptismal priest at Saint John’s.
Paone’s personnel records indicate that he was “Absent on Leave” from the Diocese of Pittsburgh from 1966 until 2001. Paone died in 2012.
According to Bishop Accountability, “Father Ernest Paone was ordained in 1957 and was assigned to five separate parishes within the first nine years of his ministry. On May 1, 1962, Father Edmund Sheedy, the Pastor of St. Monica where Paone was serving as Parochial Vicar, notified Bishop John Wright that he had interceded to prevent Paone from being arrested for “molesting young boys of the parish and the illegal use of guns with even younger parishioners.” Sheedy advised Wright that Paone was involved in “conduct degrading to the priesthood” and “scandalous to the parishioners.” In response, the Diocese reassigned Paone to Madonna of Jerusalem, in Sharpsburg.”
Bishop Wright, then bishop of Pittsburgh and later Cardinal, was an influential member of the US hierarchy and a vocal participant in Vatican II. He was also rumored to have his own issues concerning sexuality. He was allegedly enamored with young boys and would often invite them over to his residence to “entertain” the bishop. Is it no wonder that Paone was able to move to San Diego and “volunteer” in two parishes in spite of serious allegations lodged against him in Pittsburgh?
A known and reported priest abuser is allowed to continue in ministry because his superior, the bishop is himself compromised. That’s the way it worked in the Catholic Church for decades.
The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report notes these developments and concludes, “There is no indication that the [Pittsburgh] Diocese provided any interested parties information that Paone had sexually abused children or that the Diocese had played a role in preventing his prosecution for that conduct.”
In San Diego, Paone worked for three decades. He even worked at a junior high teacher for two decades in at Potter Junior High School in Fallbrook.
Paone was “absent on leave” for nearly four decades. During that time period, no bishop in Pittsburgh ever questioned Paone’s history or why he was still listed as “absent”. Pittsburgh was responsible for this priest but the bishops chose to ignore him. These bishops include Leonard, Bevilacqua, and Wuerl. The last two bishops have played major roles in the history of the priest sex abuse scandal in this country.
Ernest Paone is Exhibit A as to what’s wrong with the Catholic Church. A troubled Pittsburgh priest is allowed to move to California and live an idyllic life working in a junior high school and serving in two parishes after being accused of serious sexual abuse. Paone was a criminal whose activity was aided and abetted by more than one Pennsylvania bishop. Whether San Diego bishops knew his past is not clear from the grand jury report. What is clear is that Catholic parishioners in San Diego were subjected to a priest sex abuser because bishops in Pennsylvania allowed it.
Admitted to practice law in all federal multidistrict litigation courts, the California State Bar and the Florida Bar. His philosophy is to provide aggressive, quality representations and seek fair compensation for individuals and their families who have suffered injury, death, or sexual abuse.