Late Visalia Priest Among Fresno Diocese’s List of Documented Abusers
Visalia, CA (August 12, 2021) – Last week, The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno released a “Credibly Accused List” of clergymen with vetted allegations made against them in regards to sexual misconduct with minors, including Reverend Eric Swearingen.
The names on this list date back to people who served in the Fresno Diocese as early as 1907. Among the most recent noted pedophiles on the list is
Tulare County native Reverend Eric Swearingen, a high-ranking member in the long-established parish.
Although deceased since 2020, Swearingen went on administrative leave, ordered by Bishop Joseph Brennan, after the diocese leader received new details on a 2006 civil case involving the late reverend.
The case involved an ex-altar boy, who sued Reverend Eric Swearingen for sexual abuse committed in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
At the time of his leave, Rev. Eric Swearingen worked as the head pastor of more than Visalia’s four Catholic congregations, George McCann School and the Bethlehem Center as of 2014.
Although no criminal charges ever came of the case, a civil jury resolved that Swearingen did in fact molest the former altar boy.
Additionally, the lawsuit documents remark that the diocese did not have any prior knowledge of the reverend’s sexual abuse.
A split decision prompted the judge ruling the case to deem it a mistrial. While the court scheduled a second trial, the two sides ended up agreeing to a binding arbitration before the the date. Ultimately, both parties decided to keep the settlement private.
Following the Diocese’s Publication of Abusers List
Moreover, Brennan and the church did not disclose what additional information led to Reverend Swearingen’s 2019 administrative leave decision.
The newly posted list of accused abusers identities 65 other late clergy members of San Joaquin Valley clergy.
Once the list went live on the Fresno Diocese website page, Bishop Brennan released a statement, in which he surmised that “this will be a ‘living’ document, that is, as new information becomes available over time, new names may be added to the list in the future.” He also said he hopes the list will “be part of an on-going process of healing for everyone.”
This is not the first time the Roman Catholic church finds sexual predators in their midst.
History of Sexual Abuse in Roman Catholic Churches
While the first recorded abuse committed by the Church’s clergy dates back to 1629, the horrendous actions of some high-ranking officials, under the guise of godliness, continue to pervade into the present day. In effect, there has been an uproaring of victims’ testimonies, particularly in the past decade, what with movements like #MeToo. As a result, the Church faced overwhelming condemnation and reproach from the public, severely curtailing their efforts to keep their members, and indoctrinate new ones.
Sexual abusers do not just use their position in order to get close to their victims, they also use several other tactics, including grooming.
Grooming is the process in which an offender gains the trust of a young, impressionable child in order to commit heinous acts against them later.
Sexual abuse by spiritual leaders has been documented in every state in the United States. The abuse allegations indeed span many decades. Moreover, many high-ranking Church officials organize cover-ups in order to keep the public image of their perish from dilapidating. Instead of protecting children, many dioceses and church members have been known to conceal the pervasive abuse of assailants.
How To Proceed If You or a Loved One is a Survivor
If you believe you may be a victim of sexual abuse by adults in the Church, know that you are not alone. Every day, more survivors come forward with their accounts of abuse and the subsequent effects, both mental and physical. It is never too late to share your experience. No matter when the abuse took place, you can still report it through an abuse lawsuit.
Please reach out to us at Sweet Lawyers. If you wish to know the legal options available to you. Our professional team is ready to discuss your questions in a free, confidential consultation. This consultation does not obligate you to move forward; however, if you do wish to proceed, know that California law allows victims of sexual abuse or assult to keep their identity a secret. Therefore, your case could be easily filed under the name “Jane Doe.”