SACRAMENTO — Early Thursday morning, a man identified as John Doe and his attorney, Dr. Joseph George, detailed alleged sexual abuse by two prominent former Sacramento priests — Monsignor Murrough Wallace and Monsignor Vito Mistretta.
“They were people that I’ve looked up to growing up,” Doe said.
In explicit detail, Doe says at the age of 17, while volunteering at Camp Pendola, he alleges to have first been sexually assaulted by Monsignor Wallace in 1985.
The victim went on to describe in detail a second incident where he was sexually assaulted by Monsignor Mistretta while rehearsing for prayer. He says the incidents happened two months apart.
“I never told anybody. In the early summer of 2011, I started having flashbacks,” he said.
Mistretta died in 2009. Wallace is now 81 but has since retired.
Father Michael Vaughan, vicar general at the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, released a statement later Thursday:
“Our diocese is conducting a comprehensive audit of all previous cases involving accusations of child sexual abuse by priests. We are working with independent consultant Kathleen McChesney, a former deputy assistant director of the FBI, and we expect her review to be completed and the list released in March.
“We recognize that in past decades, horrific abuse of children and young people occurred in our diocese. In some cases, our response to this evil and our care for victims were not what they should have been. We are committed to confronting this past and atoning for it, and we are committed to protecting children and the vulnerable from abuse.
“Today, we adhere to a zero-tolerance policy regarding cases of child sexual abuse and immediately report any incidents involving children to law enforcement. Any priest credibly accused of abusing a minor is immediately removed from ministry while the accusation is investigated.
“The information presented at a press conference today had not previously been shared with our diocese. We have reached out to Mr. Doe through his attorney in hopes of learning any information that would allow us to investigate and take appropriate action. We also have offered to provide whatever assistance Mr. Doe may find helpful.
“In light of the allegation raised today by Mr. Doe, Bishop Soto has directed Msgr. Murrough Wallace, retired pastor of St. Theresa Parish in South Lake Tahoe, to withdraw from ministry until more facts can be gathered.
“We are prepared to re-open or re-evaluate all cases when new information comes to light. We would do this using today’s standards, not the ones in place when the abuse occurred. And, we would do this guided by our belief that the safety of the young and vulnerable is our undisputed priority, and that no instance of sexual abuse can be tolerated.”
In October, the diocese announced they would postpone releasing the names of priests involved in sexual abuse.
Doe says that’s why he was motivated to speak out on Thursday.
“You need to release this list of names, you need to let the public know,” Doe said.
Doe says he knows of other alleged victims, and he encourages them to tell people what happened.
The diocese currently plans to release the list of names next March, after an independent audit is completed.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has created a website to report alleged abuse by the members of the clergy.