Pedophile clergymen operated at a California faculty for many years


That is the Catholic order that lined up their abuse

By Nima Elbagir, Barbara Arvanitidis, Katie Polglase, Bryony Jones and Alex Platt

Two boys, born into deeply spiritual households, each despatched to Catholic faculty, and each abused by the very clergymen and academics meant to guard them.

George Stein and Joey Piscitelli grew up a decade aside, however they’re related by their abuse by the hands of clergymen and brothers from a Catholic order based to assist and assist weak kids.

Their experiences reveal a sample of abuse and cover-up going again greater than half a century.

A year-long CNN investigation into the Salesians of Don Bosco found that for many years, abuser clergymen and brothers had been repeatedly protected and transferred from faculty to highschool on the expense of their younger victims who had been pressured and threatened to not report what had occurred to them.

On a number of events Salesian leaders withheld instances of abuse from the authorities and even from different elements of the Catholic Church.

The brand new faculty constructing at Don Bosco School. This picture was taken eight years earlier than George Stein started learning on the faculty. Credit score: Fb / Salesian School Preparatory

The brand new faculty constructing at Don Bosco School. This picture was taken eight years earlier than George Stein started learning on the faculty. Credit score: Fb / Salesian School Preparatory

The oldest of eight kids Stein grew up believing it was his calling to change into a priest.

He was 13 in 1958 when he started learning at Don Bosco School, later renamed Salesian Excessive College, in Richmond, California. It was there that he met Brother Bernard Dabbene.

“We had a really strict routine,” Stein, now in his late 70s and residing in Seattle, remembers — every part regulated by the ringing of bells.

“When the bell rang you went to class, you went to review corridor, you went to recreation, you went to the refectory for meals. And also you had been assigned chores to assist with the maintenance of seminary.”

George Stein as a youngster learning to change into a Salesian priest. Credit score: George Stein

At some point in his sophomore yr when he was 15, Stein says, Dabbene informed him to go to a specific spot and wait to be assigned a chore.

“Once I obtained there, I felt it was somewhat unusual as a result of there was nobody there and there have been most likely no duties to be carried out,” Stein says. “He got here after some time … and he principally hugged me and kissed me, and that was inappropriate, and I wasn’t anticipating it in any respect.”

Stein reported the incident to a Salesian provincial, Father Alfred Cogliandro (roughly equal to an Archbishop), throughout one among his visits to the college. “I mentioned, ‘This occurred to me, and I need it to cease!’”

Stein says Dabbene left the college shortly afterwards. He says he was merely comfortable the abuse was over.

Patrick Wall, a former priest who has devoted his life to serving to victims of clerical abuse, says he comes throughout this continuously in his work. A lead researcher and marketing consultant for Jeff Anderson and Associates legislation agency, Wall has labored on greater than 200 instances of clergy abuse.

“We now have instances every single day of the week the place they’re merely moved — they’re geographically moved to a different location and put into ministry with out telling anybody, native authorities, typically the native parish or typically even the diocese,” he says.

However following his ordination, Dabbene — now Father Dabbene — returned to the college.

A cluster of abusers operated on the faculty for many years, a few of these throughout Dabbene’s time as principal within the 1970s.

CNN has reached out to the Provincial for the Western Province of the Salesian order in america for remark.

Joey Piscitelli was on the faculty in 1972, when Dabbene returned as principal.

Among the many abusers on workers was Father Stephen Whelan, the college’s vice principal, who quickly had Piscitelli in his sights.

“I used to be a runt,” Piscitelli recollects. “I weighed perhaps 80 kilos once I obtained to highschool. I used to be the smallest individual within the faculty, and I used to be befriended by the vice principal nearly instantly.”

Piscitelli says his ordeal started when Whelan invited him alongside to the Salesian Boys Membership, on the college campus.

Left – Joey Piscitelli (backside left) as a scholar at Salesian Excessive College. Proper – Salesian courtroom paperwork in Joey Piscitelli’s case. Credit score: Joey Piscitelli

Above – Joey Piscitelli (backside left) as a scholar at Salesian Excessive College. Beneath – Salesian courtroom paperwork in Joey Piscitelli’s case. Credit score: Joey Piscitelli

“We had been going to play pool, and … he sat down on the bench and mentioned, ‘You shoot.’ I mentioned ‘OK,’ and I shot the ball. And I rotated and informed him, ‘It’s your flip.’ And … he was sitting there masturbating.”

“I bear in mind I turned all crimson, I began sweating,” Piscitelli says. “The hair on my neck was standing up, and I simply stood there frozen — I didn’t know what to do.”

“He mentioned, ‘Maintain enjoying. I wish to watch you,’” Piscitelli recollects. “After which I rotated and the pinnacle of the Boys Membership, Brother Sal [Billante] was watching this, and he simply stood there watching. He did nothing.”

Individually, Salvatore Billante was later convicted for baby abuse in 1989, and handed an eight-year sentence. He served 4 years in jail and was required to register as a intercourse offender. In 2002, he was indicted in one other case involving 181 counts of kid abuse between 1972 and 1978. He left the Salesian order, and died in 2016.

Because the months glided by, Piscitelli says his abuse by the hands of Whelan worsened.

“At some point he cornered me on the steps and began molesting me and informed me, ‘Get upstairs!’ … he dragged me into the room and attacked me, and I used to be raped. I … blacked out whereas it occurred.”

After the assault, Piscitelli says he doesn’t bear in mind how he obtained house. “However once I obtained house, I had blood in my underwear, so I went within the yard of my home and I wrapped the bloody underwear round a rock and threw it over the fence into the sphere to eliminate the proof.”

To deal with the abuse he had suffered, Piscitelli drew typically graphic pictures depicting the horrors he lived by way of.

Piscitelli says the principal threatened him after he informed the college counsellor what had occurred.

“[He] informed me that he was going to kick me out of college and fireplace my mom from the cafeteria as a result of I’ve an enormous mouth,” he recollects. “I begged him not to do this, and I apologized, and I mentioned I might by no means speak about it once more.”

Piscitelli remembers Dabbene ranting and screaming at him. “He was furious. He mentioned: ‘No person goes to consider your phrase in opposition to a priest,’ which startled me, because it was the identical factor Whelan had mentioned.”

Piscitelli says he was additionally bodily attacked by one other Salesian priest working as a trainer on the faculty.

“[He] cornered me on the second ground exterior of geometry class … the hallway was empty. He mentioned, ‘Stand in entrance of me. I wish to discuss to you … put your fingers at your aspect and look me within the eyes.’”

“And whereas I used to be taking a look at him questioning what he wished, he kneed me within the groin as arduous as he might. I went down … I simply lay on the ground. I couldn’t even breathe,” says Piscitelli.

“I believed I used to be going to should go to the hospital. I couldn’t transfer. It was so dangerous. And whereas I used to be laying there, he mentioned to me, ‘You’ve gotten an enormous mouth. I don’t wish to see you up right here once more.’”

The priest continues to be working inside the Salesian order. He has by no means confronted fees.

Disturbing content material warning: Graphic pictures drawn by Joey Piscitelli to assist him deal with the abuse he suffered.

Piscitelli, who graduated from the college in 1973, has since made it his life’s mission to convey the Salesians to justice for the abuse they inflicted upon him as a baby.

In 2006, he received a civil swimsuit in opposition to them and was awarded damages of $600,000. However his victory was no compensation for a childhood misplaced to sexual and bodily abuse.

Piscitelli mentioned he by no means acquired an apology from the Salesians — till CNN contacted the order as a part of its investigation.

“They know that any person is investigating their habits, and they’re doing injury management,” he mentioned. “They’ve by no means apologized since I sued in 2003. They continued to name me a liar lengthy after I received the courtroom case in 2006 … then the phony hole apology arrives.”

Key Salesian figures on this story


Father Bernard Dabbene, Principal of Salesian Excessive College whereas Joey Piscitelli attended. He threatened Piscitelli when he tried to report the abuse.


Father Stephen Whelan, Vice Principal of Salesian Excessive College whereas Joey Piscitelli attended. He repeatedly sexually abused Piscitelli throughout his time there.


Brother Salvatore Billante, Head of the Salesians’ Boys Membership, whereas Joey Piscitelli attended. He witnessed Whelan’s abuse of Piscitelli however didn’t report it.


Father Nick Reina, Salesian Provincial of the Western Province (1997-2003). In 2018, it was revealed he had additionally been accused of kid sexual abuse.

Dabbene rose by way of the ranks to change into Principal of Salesian Excessive College, Director of Don Bosco Tech in Rosemead, California, and to serve on the Archdiocesan Board of Schooling in Los Angeles.

However in November 2000, the priest and educator — by then aged 63 — was caught in a automotive on the San Francisco waterfront, along with his trousers unzipped and accompanied by a 17-year-old boy.

The then Provincial for the order’s Western Province, Father Nick Reina, wrote to the native Salesian neighborhood, saying he was “dismayed and upset” by the allegations in opposition to Dabbene, and cautioning: “We don’t but know all of the info.”

“If all of the allegations made are discovered to have benefit, then we owe a really nice apology certainly to all who might have been touched by this example,” he wrote.

However Reina raised some eyebrows when he requested the Salesians to wish not just for Dabbene’s sufferer, but in addition for the priest himself.

“I ask you to hitch me in prayer for the younger individual concerned on this incident and any members of the family,” he wrote. “I additionally ask on your prayers for Father Dabbene and all Salesian brothers and clergymen who minister within the San Francisco province.”

Reina additionally informed a neighborhood newspaper, “It is a dangerous expertise for him [Dabbene] — he is devastated.”

Pedophile clergymen operated at a California faculty for many years 11:56

Wall, who has investigated lots of of sexual abuse instances involving the Catholic Church, believes that outward sympathy with an accused priest, slightly than his sufferer, is a behaviour frequent to all spiritual orders.

“This can be a sexualized celibate system,” he informed CNN. “When you may have a sexualized celibate system, you may have folks that won’t report on each other. And you’ve got a system whereby kids are decrease valued than a priest or a member of the spiritual order. So, in the event that they commit against the law, you look away.”

After Dabbene admitted making an attempt to molest the minor present in his automotive, he was handed a suspended sentence. Reina reassigned him to work as an archivist on the Salesians’ headquarters in San Francisco — a place he held till his loss of life in 2010. Dabbene was by no means faraway from the Salesian order.

“When you may have a sexualized celibate system, you may have folks that won’t report on each other.”

Not like Piscitelli, Stein didn’t take the Salesians to courtroom, however in 2002 he says he lastly confronted his personal emotions about what occurred to him, following the Boston Globe’s exposé of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

“I used to be on a retreat at my child’s faculty, and we had been simply in a small group of fellows sharing who we had been, form of spiritually, in our lives. I waited till the very finish, and … then I simply form of erupted and I simply blurted out, ‘I used to be abused.’”

“It was the primary time I had mentioned that out loud and form of admitted it to myself that I used to be, you realize, in that group of individuals. So it was form of a shock for me … to comprehend that — it had been so lengthy.”

Following this breakthrough, he determined to confide in his household. His brother, a Salesian priest, took the information badly.

“For a few years, he held that in opposition to me, that I didn’t inform him that occurred when he got here into the neighborhood,” Stein says.

The identical yr, Stein reached out to the Provincial, Reina, to hunt assist relating to his abuse by the hands of Dabbene.

“I referred to as the Provincial and the Provincial supplied counselling and I took counselling,” Stein recollects, matter-of-factly.

Father Nick Reina, former Provincial of the Western Province. Credit score: In Contact Journal, Salesians of Don Bosco (2017)

What Stein didn’t know on the time was that Reina, too, had been accused of abuse.

Reina — a arithmetic trainer in addition to a priest — had additionally served as President of Salesian Excessive College.

In a 2013 e-newsletter marking his departure from the college, Reina was hailed as “a tremendous trainer and religious advisor,” who had been acknowledged as the college’s Educator of the 12 months.

However a CNN investigation discovered that by the point that glowing endorsement was revealed, the Salesian order had identified for greater than a decade that Reina, now 72, had been accused himself of abuse.

The kid abuse allegation, which dated again to 1975 — earlier than Reina was ordained — was reported to the Salesians in 2002. In accordance with a press release launched by the Salesians in 2018, the order acknowledged it as “credible,” however didn’t take away the priest from both his publish or the ministry. There was no prison investigation into the allegation.

Reina didn’t reply to CNN’s request for remark.

And only a yr earlier than his Educator of the 12 months award, in 2012, the Salesians had acquired a second credible allegation of abuse in opposition to Reina — this time involving a report of “grownup impropriety.”

A person informed church authorities that, in 2000, Reina had “made an improper advance to him … when he was an grownup.” The order mentioned it didn’t act on the allegation, “as a result of the incident didn’t contain a minor.”

As an alternative Reina was allowed to proceed in his publish, later transferring to a different faculty — Bishop Mora Salesian Excessive College in Los Angeles.

He was solely faraway from his place, in 2018, when information of each allegations first reached the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The Salesians had withheld important info on Reina from the Archdiocese for nearly twenty years.

How the Catholic Church is structured

The Pope

  • Hierarchy of the Secular Clergy
    • Cardinal

    • Archbishop

    • Bishop

    • Priest

    • Deacon

  • Hierarchy of the Salesians of Don Bosco
    • Rector Main

    • Vicar of the Rector Main

    • Regional Councillor

    • Provincial

    • Priest

    • Brother

CNN has discovered that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has enabled the Salesians — and different spiritual orders — to police themselves on points of kid abuse, with little to no exterior accountability.

“Different spiritual institutes are reporting out lists of credibly accused, they’re saying who they’re, after they knew about them, the place did they work, every part else,” mentioned Wall.

“The Salesians are silencio. They’ve refused to place out something except it’s with a courtroom order or except the civil authorities drive them to do one thing. Why are they ready to solely do the minimal?”

The Salesians refused CNN’s requests for an interview, however in response to the investigation, Father Ted Montemayor, Provincial for the Western Province, issued a press release on the group’s web site, saying: “We condemn sexual abuse and are dedicated to securing and selling the protection and well-being of kids.”

“We all know that horrible acts of abuse have occurred up to now,” the assertion mentioned. “We specific our sincerest apologies to all victims and their households impacted by abuse by any member of the Salesian order.”

“We take abuse very significantly and have over the previous decade applied insurance policies and procedures designed to raised stop and reply to baby abuse,” Montemayor added.

“It is shocking me that Nick is youthful than I’m and that it is in that subsequent technology”

Regardless of the allegations in opposition to them, neither Reina nor Whelan has been faraway from the Salesian order.

Reina stays at their Western headquarters in San Francisco “beneath restrictions.” Whelan resides at Don Bosco Corridor, Berkeley, California, additionally “beneath restrictions.”

In accordance with Sam Singer, the Salesian spokesman for the Western Province of america, these restrictions embrace having no contact with minors, no involvement in public ministry and no unaccompanied in a single day journeys.

CNN revealed to Stein in the middle of this investigation that Reina, too, had been accused of abuse. “It is shocking me that Nick is youthful than I’m and that it is in that subsequent technology,” Stein mentioned in response.

“Those that would have been round to abuse, or groom or you realize, molest within the seminary are all just about useless and gone. However that it nonetheless exists inside the neighborhood is … disappointing.”

For Piscitelli, studying of the allegations in opposition to Reina was much more of a punch to the intestine, for the reason that priest officiated at Piscitelli’s 1979 marriage ceremony.

“What this implies to me is that I should be haunted much more now, as a result of the photographs of my spouse and I on the altar, being married, comprise the photographs of one more baby intercourse abuser Salesian priest,” Piscitelli wrote to Montemayor in a letter seen by CNN. Regardless of these allegations and the actions taken by the order to take away him, Reina has by no means been convicted of kid abuse. However, to Piscitelli, the allegations are nonetheless painful.

“Now I’ve so as to add that to the nightmares I’ve, which were attributable to the Salesians.”

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