Recently Abp. Allen Vigneron has been called out for shielding a clergy predator in Detroit, and allowing the religious sister accused of sexual misconduct to work for decades on staff in the archdiocese. In my experience, Vigneron's policy of shielding predators — and lying — is nothing new. I know this firsthand.
Vigneron was the bishop of the Oakland diocese in California from 2003–2008, when I filed a lawsuit for molestation against the diocese and the Salesian Order. I had been sexually abused as a ninth-grade student by Fr. Steven Whelan at Salesian High School in 1970. The case was Alameda County Sup Ct. # RG 03 104174. Bishop Vigneron was notified of the suit by the court.
In 2004, I learned that Bp. Vigneron was holding "apology services" at different diocesan churches, where he named accused clerical abusers in the diocese and apologized to their victims. I met Bp. Vigneron privately at the diocesan chancery on Harrison Street in 2005 and told him that Fr. Whelan had molested me. I told him that I had been violently abused, and that I had suffered for years.
Vigneron took my hand in his, looked sadly into my eyes, and said he was sorry such horrible things had happened to me. He said what happened to me was a travesty, and it was not what God wanted. He assured me that he would name Fr. Whelan publicly and issue a special apology to me in front of the congregation at his last apology service at St. Raymond Church on March 28, 2005. He told me I was brave to come forward and encouraged me not to lose faith in the Catholic Church, and that he and other clergy were sincere, and that they would restore my faith in Catholic clergy.
I won my sex abuse lawsuit in June of 2006 (the verdict was upheld on appeal in 2008). I confronted Vigneron again to remind him I had won the suit; but he still did not apologize. On the contrary, he was arrogant and dismissive.
In yet another protest at the diocese, I publicly accused Vigneron of deception and of protecting sexual predator clergy. He was livid. In retaliation, Vigneron called the district attorney's office and filed a report to have a restraining order placed on me so that I could not come near his diocesan office. He had lied about me, telling the D.A. I had threatened him with bodily harm.
The D.A. called me and asked if Vigneron's claim was true. I called Vigneron a liar, making clear he had fabricated the story and explaining that the real reason Vigneron wanted a restraining order was that he didn't like being exposed for his practice of protecting priest abusers. The D.A. assured me he would get to the bottom of the issue. He eventually concluded that he did not accept Vigneron's story and denied him the retraining order. Vigneron's deceptive ways did not ring truthful to law enforcement.
It comes as no surprise to me that Vigneron is continuing his legacy of "shield and deceive" in Detroit. His policy apparently hasn't changed, reminiscent of his "blind eye" conduct in Oakland until 2008.
The diocese of Oakland routinely turned a blind eye to many accused predators who were ping-ponged back and forth from the San Francisco archdiocesan facilities to the Oakland diocese for years. Vigneron managed to keep many of them off the radar when he arrived in Oakland. He was considered a clean-up man when numerous lawsuits were filed against the diocese in 2003. Accused priests he didn't reveal — Fr. Steven Whelan, Fr. Larry Lorenzoni, Br. Ernie Martinez, Br. Dan Pacheco and Fr. Titian Miani — had all been sued for multiple child rapes and sex abuse.
Unbelievably, child rapist Fr. Whelan is currently working at Don Bosco Hall in the Oakland diocese today — as the new bishop of Oakland continues the disgrace in Vigneron's footsteps.
And Vigneron may have planted those footsteps in Detroit; perhaps he should be scrutinized some more.