National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Church in Crisis
Issue Date:  April 4, 2003

Resigned California bishop back in headlines

Los Angeles

Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann, who in 1999 resigned in disgrace from the leadership of the Santa Rosa, Calif., diocese, is in the news in Los Angeles and San Francisco, archdioceses in which he served.

In Los Angeles, where he was an auxiliary bishop to Cardinal Roger Mahony prior to his Santa Rosa appointment, Ziemann is reportedly under criminal investigation for sexual molestation.

The legal community’s newspaper, The Los Angeles Daily Journal, reported March 20 that Los Angeles “prosecutors and police are focusing on allegations that Ziemann, while serving under Mahony, molested a minor and aided in a cover-up of sexual abuse of children by other clerics.”

A day earlier, March 19, the SF Weekly in San Francisco ran an extensive article on Ziemann’s sexual and financial scandal in Santa Rosa, one of the dioceses that comprises the San Francisco province under the jurisdiction of San Francisco’s archbishop.

Ziemann, who left the Santa Rosa diocese $30 million in debt, was sued by a priest, Jorge Hume Salas, for forcing him into sex acts (NCR March 3, 2000).

The Weekly article aroused concern among Santa Rosa Catholics because it implied that Mahony and San Francisco Archbishop William Levada were working for Ziemann’s rehabilitation and return as a priest and a bishop.

San Francisco archdiocesan spokesperson Maurice Healy categorized the Weekly article as “in its entirety full of junk as it pertains to the archbishop. Ludicrous.”

Los Angeles archdiocesan spokesperson Tod Tamberg said the article was “filled with inaccuracies and innuendo. Cardinal Mahony is not involved in any so-called ‘rehabilitation’ of Bishop Ziemann.”

Ziemann today lives a life of relative ease in an Arizona monastery, with no discernible duties. He left behind in the Santa Rosa diocese 140,000 scandalized and demoralized Catholics. Some of their 42 parishes saw their millions in hard-saved funds invested by Ziemann and his officials in dubious schemes in Europe or spent on sexual scandal payoffs.

The closest Ziemann ever came to a public reprimand from his church superiors was Levada’s comment at a public meeting when Catholics called for Ziemann to go to prison.

Levada said Ziemann (and his vicar general) were “inept, but that’s not stealing. It is inappropriate to call for people to be imprisoned.”

Zeimann was never prosecuted for crimes or sued, except by the priest he sexually abused, who wanted $8 million. The diocese settled for $535,000.

National Catholic Reporter, April 4, 2003

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