At age five, 1954, "the Bishop" (Chicago's Cardinal Stritch) stood over me and said, I had to "stop babbling" about what the priest did to me. It took me 40 years to talk about it again. Today, I babble.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Will a Fresno judge allow a new trial re Msgr. Anthony Herdegen? Would bishops withhold evidence or lie under oath?


By Kay Ebeling
Producer, City of Angels Network

Looking through the personnel file of Monsignor Anthony Herdegen, to me what stood out most is what was not there, in a good two thousand pages of loose sheets documenting Herdegen's 50-year career in Central California parishes.

Plaintiffs’ Motion for a New Trial will be heard next Monday afternoon June 8th by Judge Donald Black in Fresno Superior Court Department 97B. Plaintiffs filed their motion for a new trial May 14th saying testimony of a new witness would have caused the jury to reach a different verdict.

As the jury deliberated last April, a new witness came forward, whose testimony could prove what brothers Howard and George Santillan were unable to convince this jury, that the Diocese of Fresno had prior notice about sex crimes against young altar boys and parishioners by Anthony Herdegen, as reported in a City of Angels May 21 post

There have been several complaints of Herdegen sexually abusing other boys besides the Santillan brothers, yet the Monsignor's personnel file is a pile of carefully photocopied pages from 1949 to his retirement in 1995 that make Herdegen look almost like a saint. Then in April 1995, Herdegen’s lovely hand written note says: “Rev. Bishop John: After much prayer and deep reflection I have come to the time when I need to retire and spend my reclining years in preparation for the Lord’s call.”

Two days later the Bishop writes: “In response to your request for retirement, I certainly will accept it,” and then appears to rush the Monsignor out of town. (Those letters are scanned in below.)

In April 1995, Herdegen's retirement, in the personnel file is one glowing letter after another from parishioners, writing to protest their beloved pastor's retirement being so abrupt and sudden, whatever he did, they love him....

Then a document is attached to a March 2005 letter from the Diocese of Fresno defense attorneys -


Oh a side note here:

In case you wondered if God has a sense of humor: The law firm representing the Diocese of Fresno is:

Stammer, McKnight, Barnum & Bailey.

I don't know, I think that's funny, maybe you don't but man it’s hard it find stuff to laugh at when you're in the middle of these crime details:


Okay in March 2005 attorneys, the judge, and others get a copy of a 1995 document that apparently was not included in the original personnel file sent to plaintiffs.

The letter appears to be saying, oh by the way here's that other stuff, now that you mention it, from Herdegen's file.

Then- well:

Here is what I think is a mysterious document, scanned for City of Angels readers to see for themselves.

Click to Enlarge:

Above, we see the single spaced typed sheet with 4.24.95 typed at the top as the date, and in hand writing by Bishop Steinbock.

What I noticed outright is:

This page does not look like anything else in the Monsignor’s personnel file.

The note, scanned in above, is signed with the initials JTS (John Steinbock, Bishop of Fresno)


Funny isn’t it, Bishop John Steinbock, since Merced, Fresno, Central California - the region is known nationally as John Steinbeck country as well ...


Meanwhile, the way the Santillan brothers as plaintiffs in the Fresno case describe life around the rectory with Monsignor Herdegen, it’s hard to believe the neighbors, visitors, other boys who were around wouldn't see what was happening: This is from recently filed documents:

"Howard wondered if Monsignor H. was not on some kind of drugs since he was so ‘horny’ all the time.”

Above is a direct quote from what seems to be an investigator’s report which was part of the file turned over after March 2005.

An investigator’s interview with Howard Santillan.

Reporting directly to the Bishop of Fresno.

The investigator who may also be a prirest reports on 17 April 2002 on a conversation with Howard Santillan, followed up with a visit to the family:

Though I did not ask for specifics as to the nature of the abuse, Howard (Santillan) stated that they would often serve morning Mass followed by breakfast already prepared for them in the rectory. They would then spend most of the day in the rectory where Monsignor would engage in sex with them. This would go on sometimes several days a week. If the boys would stay away, Herdegen would ask why they hadn’t come around. Howard wondered if monsignor H was not on some kind of drugs since he was so “horny” all the time.”

I can't help wondering:

Why didn't all these individuals testify in the trial?


Why were there never typed note documents in Herdegen's file before this one dated April 1995 signed JTS?

The scanned mystery page says:

Tony called on phone
- person in Wasco saying Tony abused him and others.
- He admitted he was ‘indiscreet’ some twenty years ago in Wasco. But has not had anything happen like this in his life since.
- he fears scandal.
- Maybe he should retire early, very quickly.
- I told him to come to see me at noon today.

11:30 AM
No knowledge has come to me about this from any other source.

He will announce next Sunday April 30th that he will retire.
I do not act on rumors. But if a person who claims to have been abused contacts me I will have to put him on administrative leave.”

The note is signed JTS


And that week in April 1995 was the last week Tony Herdegen lorded over central California Catholic parishes.

The April 2009 Jury Verdict Surprised Clergy Abuse Watchers

But Considering How Much Evidence was never Entered

So Never seen by the Jury. . .

As the Fresno Bee reported: “Jurors unanimously agreed that Monsignor Anthony Herdegen molested the brothers from 1959 to 1972 while Herdegen was a priest at St. John's Catholic Church in Wasco. But church officials didn't know about it at the time, (so) jurors found the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno is not liable.”


So the Santillan brothers were awarded $0.00 in April 2009.

However, as reported at City of Angels at the link below, The Motion for a New Trial filed by plaintiffs May 14 contends that testimony of this new witness would have resulted in a different verdict See:

The new witness, another victim of Herdegen, says his mother reported the abuse in the 1960s, so the diocese was on notice at least since then.


If the testimony of W Doe is considered, and there is a new trial, then the Fresno Diocese must have had prior notice, even though testimony of Bishops Joseph Madera, John Steinbock, and even the testimony of Cardinal Roger Mahony convinced the jury the Catholic hierarchy of Fresno had absolutely no idea Monsignor Herdegen was molesting little boys.

And we've never known the bishops and cardinals to lie under oath, have we?

Did the plaintiffs ever get the practice of “Mental Reservation” introduced at trial?

Probably not: This is from a pretrial order in March 2009 by Judge Black granting the church's request to withhold evidence:

In response to defendant's motions in limine nos. 4,5 and 8, plaintiffs argue that evidence of alleged abuse of other children by Msgr. Herdegen and other priests is relevant to their claim that defendant ratified the conduct alleged to have occurred in this case.

The court has reviewed the cases cited by plaintiffs at the hearing on the motions and has not located authority for the proposition advoated by plaintiffs, i.e., that conduct by defendant that might constitute ratification of other bad acts by Herdegen and others is relevant to the issue of whether defendant ratified the alleged conduct of Msgr. Herdegen here.

Further, the fact remains that the proferred evidence is highly emotional and prejudicial and would consume significant time during the trial, particularly if defendant disputed such other alleged conduct occurred. Accordingly, the court confirms its tentative rulings on defendant's motions in limine nos. 4, 5 and 8.

However, this ruling does not preclude the defendant from using the January 5, 1971 memo from Cardinal Mahoney to Bishop Donohoe, which may be relevant to the extent of Cardinal Mahoney's knowledge of Msgr. Herdegen's conduct in this case.

In other words the Judge agreed to let the Bishop of Fresno got a whole barrel full of evidence left out of the first Fresno trial.


We hope that trial will be known in the future as the first Fresno trial.

In fact, it should be very revealing to have a second trial, as the public has a right to know how much the Catholic bishops feel they have a right to conceal from the public, even when subpoenaed by the Court to produce documents.

And how much will bishops lie under oath.

Bishops John T. Steinbock, and Joseph Madera, of the Fresno Diocese, as well as Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles gave testimony in the first Fresno trial March 2009, saying under oath that no one in the diocese, no other priests, housekeepers, no one knew of anything untoward going on in the rectory with Anthony Herdegen.

From the personnel file turned over by the Fresno Diocese, about the worst thing you could find that anyone ever said about Monsignor Anthony Herdegen was that he believed the Mass should continue to be served in Latin, and that everyone coming to Communion should kneel at an altar rail, even if you were disabled, you should just find a way to do it.

Does that explain his idea of what the altar boys are there for - as catamites with a purpose of making celibacy a little easier for priests, a practice dating back to the Dark Ages?


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Stay tuned...

HERDEGEN Retirement Letter to Bishop:

Doesn't he have a lovely delicate hand?
Page 2:

The Bishop Writes Right Back:

As always click to enlarge:

Onward Through the Frog...


victoriag said...

"Would Bishops Withhold Evidence Or Lie Under Oath?"
IS THE POPE A NAZI???!!!!! Of Course They Would!!!! And Have!!!! And Probably Still Will!!!!

why_knot1 said...

Kay, what happened to the memo referenced in your post as follows?

"However, this ruling does not preclude the defendant from using the January 5, 1971 memo from Cardinal Mahoney to Bishop Donohoe, which may be relevant to the extent of Cardinal Mahoney's knowledge of Msgr. Herdegen's conduct in this case."

city of angels lady said...

I don't know. Was the memo ever used in the trial? I was not there, but I may go up Monday for the hearing, to check things out= it's only $32 on Amtrak...

QuantaCura01 said...

I hope a new trial is ordered so truth of Bishop John t. Steinbock will be known. Look at the suspects, Mahony, Madera, Swett, all the usual suspects and all probably good for it. This is what has been going on in the Fresno diocese for years. Look at the Fr. Listiri case, he is not the director of liturgy for the diocese. Steinbock has been protecting perverts since he was an auxilary in Orange in the early 80's

QuantaCura01 said...

Take a look into the case of Fr. Thomas Purcell, who served in various locations in the diocese of Fresno under Steinbock and Madera. Mr. Purcell is now in prison in Arizona for child molestation. Fresno makes Los Angeles look like Disneyland