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San Diego Catholic Priest Suspended Amid Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct

October 10, 2018 1:35 p.m.

San Diego Catholic Priest Suspended Amid Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct


Peter Rowe, reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Related Story: San Diego Catholic Priest Suspended Amid Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

A San Diego priest has been suspended over what the diocese says are credible allegations of sexual misconduct. Reverend Justin Loen Giel is accused of inappropriately touching a teenage girl. The allegations were made twice before but this time stuck after an independent review board found new evidence. Cases like this are being re-examined on the heels of the Pennsylvania grand jury report that found 300 priests had sexually abused hundreds of children over seven decades. Kate CBS's Jane Heinzman spoke with union tribune reporter Peter Rowe who has been covering this story.

What do we know about Reverend Justin Lingle. Where was he working and is there a possibility of more victims.

Yes I suppose anything's possible at this point. But Reverend Lengel began his work in the diocese in 1980. He had been an associate pastor and later pastor at about a dozen parishes of everyone from Sinito state elkhound to MidCity San Diego. So he has quite an extensive resume here.

The complaint though comes from the early 1990s and it was first looked at in 1995 now twice before these these allegations of sexual abuse were dismissed and Reverend Lengel even passed a polygraph. What was the new evidence revealed this time around well we really don't know.

It's interesting how he passed these earlier ones I believe in the past 1995 and then again in 2002 the investigations were done internally by officials of the diocese and that 2002 as you mentioned he passed the polygraph test. But these days that's not how it's done these days. The investigation there is what looks to be perhaps a credible accusation. The investigation is done by a professional investigator. He's a retired police or maybe they're private investigators that the diocese hires and they go out and look at the evidence and try and track down any witnesses and check for inconsistencies in the priest's story. And that's what they found this time they found that his story just didn't add up.

And what can you tell us about these independent review boards and the one that's been formed to look into these cases.

Yeah now the independent review boards the diocese places a lot of faith in these are primarily made up of laypeople. There is a priest who's associated with the board but there are lay attorneys. There is a private investigator who is part of this. Others also counselors. And there also is at least one victim of sexual abuse.

And you know there has been criticism that the review board isn't really all that independent and that that's why there has been a lack of accountability. What do critics really mean by that.

Yes well this is a point that has raised quite often by the folks at SNAP which is the survivors survivors network of those Abused by Priests. So Tim Lanane who's the president SNAP is saying listen you know the these independent review boards the members are selected by the diocese information that they receive is vetted by the diocese and the bishop does not have to accept their their findings or their recommendations. They are strictly an advisory board. They don't have any real power. Now in this case of course the bishop did accept the findings and remove you know Reverend Lang Geale from from the ranks of the priesthood.

And how many other cases. Is the board re-examining and can we expect more priests to be reprimanded.

Yeah I asked about that. We really don't know the numbers of cases that are being re-examined. But what what is happening or what I'm told is happening is that the diocese is going back taking a look at cases that were reviewed before 2004 2004 is when the Independent Review Board was established. So they're got to take another look at cases that came before the diocese before 2004 and that process is ongoing. So we may be you know we may be getting more announcements like this one in the future.

Do you think criminal investigations will be prompted by findings of this review board like the attorney general did in New York.

Well that's that's what the snap people are saying is is kind of what the diocese wants to avoid because in New York and in Pennsylvania you actually had investigators you know civil authority descending on diocesan offices and seizing records and conducting you know full scale criminal investigation. So SNAP is saying well you know what what we're seeing here is is a step to head that off to kind of nip that in the bud with the diocese saying hey look you don't need that because we're taking action on our own. That was capable says Jane Heineman speaking with union tribune reporter Peter Peter Rowe.