SPENCER MICHELS: In the wine country north of San Francisco, the national scandals over Catholic priests abusing children have an all too familiar ring.
At least six priests, including a bishop, have been accused of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Santa Rosa.
One hundred forty thousand Catholics and more than a 100 clergy live in this diocese, most of them in Sonoma County.
Sister Jane Kelly says that for 27 years she has watched the cases pile up, and the local diocese circle the wagons. She has been speaking out for years, mostly ignored, and now, at 71, she is so outraged that she is writing a book, detailing the sins of the clergy.
SISTER JANE KELLY: We've taken Peter's Rock and turned it over and oh, my God, what do we find? People are rising up and not saying the yeses any longer and they are demanding answers, and they are demanding accountability and responsibility. And the Church will never be the same.
SPENCER MICHELS: The specter of priests abusing children is hardly new.
But the recent case of Father John Geoghan of Boston --accused of molesting 130 children over 30 years -- has refocused national attention on the problem.
Geoghan was recently convicted in one case and sentenced to prison.
Angry parishioners have called for the resignation of the Boston archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law, for not removing the offending priests, but instead transferring them to other parishes. The archbishop has apologized and remains in power.
CARDINAL BERNARD LAW: We reiterate again my profound apology to victims and the families of victims of sexual abuse as minors by clergy.
SPENCER MICHELS: He recently turned over the names of 80 Boston area clerics accused of molesting children over the last 50 years.
The Boston Archdiocese yesterday announced it would pay 50 victims of abuse by Father Geoghan half a million dollars each and 36 other victims lesser amounts, for a total of $15 to $30 million. Insurance will pay only part of this and other settlements.
The Catholic Church in America has paid out at least $300 million --perhaps triple that amount --to victims of abuse across the country.
In this Sonoma County courthouse, a 58-year-old Catholic priest, Father Donald Kimball -- is facing criminal charges of rape and child molestation.
The alleged incidents took place two decades ago. The Catholic Church has already settled a civil lawsuit naming the priest -- for $1.6 million.
Father Kimball -- who worked with youth groups in Santa Rosa, but has now been made an inactive priest -- has decided to fight the charges against him -- which he considers part of a national witch hunt.
DONALD KIMBALL, Retired Priest: You have to understand. I'm innocent. I'm still officially innocent. I'm getting harassed in stores now because people are putting my picture up.
I mean the worst thing you can accuse anyone of is being a child molester. This isn't going to end like Boston, okay?
SPENCER MICHELS: A former bishop has acknowledged in court testimony that Kimball had apologized to him for "a long history of molestation."
SPENCER MICHELS: This Santa Rosa family -- the Hoards --is partially responsible for priests like Kimball going to trial.
Because one family member was molested by a priest, other family members lobbied successfully for a state law that extends the statute of limitation for sexual and physical abuse crimes against children.
SPENCER MICHELS: Thirty-nine year old Donald Hoard -- today a successful accountant and a father -- was molested at a Church summer camp when he was eleven by the priest in charge.
DONALD HOARD, JR.: Father Timmons made our counselors go away - they had student counselors that ran each of their groups of about eight kids -- and then he was in a sleeping bag with me and .. um, you know, he molested me at that time, and then the following summers he did the same thing.
He had -- it rained and he moved my sleeping bag into a shed and stayed in there with me all night,.. you know, forcing me to do stuff with him, and doing stuff to me.
And then you go to church the following Sunday, after this happens to you and you're listening to them, you know, say you're going to go to hell for doing these kinds of things and then it's a priest that's doing it to you, you can't even, there's no way to tell anyone.
And you don't want anyone to know; you know that it's wrong but you don't want anyone to know. You think you're the only one -- that's the other thing.
SPENCER MICHELS Hoard didn't tell anyone for 20 years -- until others who had been molested came forward.
DONALD HOARD, JR.: When you're eleven-- I mean, you almost think of priests as God and you almost feel like he's chosen you for something that you've done and that's the main -- that's I think the critical thing for people why they don't talk.
SPENCER MICHELS: Years later, the priest was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison; he served four.
Hoard and his father have publicly criticized the Church for encouraging silence, and for resisting efforts to discipline and remove offending priests.
Here --as in Boston -- critics allege that priests who were accused of molesting children were often simply transferred to another parish, to keep the allegations from becoming public and embarrassing the Church.
DONALD HOARD, SR.: We see that they, in fact, were covering up for these people and they were moving them around. Boston is, just a glaring exposure of it...
DONALD HOARD, JR.: But it's the same. It's no different.
SPENCER MICHELS: Why do you say it's the same? What is the same?
DONALD HOARD, JR.: Every diocese that we've encountered has the exact same fact pattern. They all have multiple transfers.
SPENCER MICHELS: That no longer is the case in Santa Rosa, according to Bishop Daniel Walsh -- who was brought here two years ago to replace a bishop who was removed for having an affair with a parish priest.
Walsh said that if misbehaving priests were transferred in the past, it was because the bishop didn't know they were molesting.
BISHOP DANIEL WALSH: In this diocese, people were not moved around who were child molesters.
They did not know they were child molesters. When it came out, then we realized that they had been moved around but there was no knowledge in this office, at least from the records, that anybody knew that these people were misbehaving.
I'm sure it might seem like 'an old boys network.' It is not. The priests, religious and lay employees of the Church and the volunteers are good people.
It's preposterous to think that I would allow someone who has s potential of harming a child and give him an assignment? That doesn't make sense.
SPENCER MICHELS: Walsh -- concerned that the good name of falsely accused people could be at stake -- has created a Sensitive Issues Committee of Clergy and Lay Catholics to look at allegations against priests.
BISHOP DANIEL WALSH: They investigate that accusation to see if it's credible and if it's credible, then they do further investigation and make a recommendation to me.
Once the accusation is believed to be credible, the one who's accused is put on administrative leave...
SPENCER MICHELS: When in that process, if ever, are the police or child protective services called in?
BISHOP DANIEL WALSH: As soon as it's made, as soon as we believe it's a credible accusation.
SPENCER MICHELS: That's by you?
BISHOP DANIEL WALSH: It would be by myself or the chairman of the Sensitive Issues, yes.
DONALD HOARD, SR.: The law does not allow the bishop to investigate crimes.
SPENCER MICHELS: Donald Hoard Sr. helped write that law, which requires clergy to report sexual crimes directly to the police.
DONALD HOARD, SR.: The bishop is absolutely, totally incorrect and he is suborning the way that we got the law passed. it was done to prevent people like him and his committee from reviewing these claims and deciding what is abuse and what isn't. That is the police and the DA's job -- not the bishop.
SPENCER MICHELS: No one in the Hoard family has remained Catholic. But family members continue to push for changes in the Church -- including reforms at the places where priests are trained.
This is St. Patrick's Seminary near San Francisco --where the Santa Rosa diocese sends its aspiring priests.
According to Father Gerald Coleman --the rector in charge --St. Patrick's has changed since the days he was a seminarian.
FATHER GERALD COLEMAN, St. Patrick's Seminary: We didn't have any training in sexuality or celibacy. There was just an assumption that if you went through the seminary and you passed all your courses, as a matter of fact, all this was just going to take care of itself.
SPENCER MICHELS: Just two years ago, the academic dean at St. Patrick's was removed after he was arrested for soliciting sex with minors on the Internet.
That came as a huge shock to Father Coleman, who teaches this course on sexuality to seminarians.
FATHER GERALD COLEMAN: Let me say something about impotence and sterility --
SPENCER MICHELS: He also presides over a screening process including psychological tests designed to weed out prospective priests who might be pedophiles. The approach to sex and celibacy is much more open than before.
FATHER GERALD COLEMAN: We ask students about their own assessment of their own sexuality, their own orientation, their ability to live celibately and we kind of get a sense of them, how they articulate that and what they mean and don't mean by it. There are various components in place that address questions of sexuality in their own life.
So what we're hoping for and have geared carefully is that by the time we recommend to the bishop a guy gets ordained, that he is a holistic fellow sexually, spiritually and, and so on, so that he wouldn't demonstrate any dysfunctional problems in terms of sexuality, pedophilia being one of them.
SPENCER MICHELS: Four seminarians we spoke with said the new openness about sex has been healthy.
CHRIS SELLARS, Seminarian: I think that the climate in the community that fosters dialogue on these issues will allow people to, to deal with and to talk about some of things, as well as some of the behavior that you would see in the past.
We certainly talked about it in our human sexuality class --the profile of a pedophile and somebody who isolates and, and doesn't make friends, somebody like that wouldn't last in the seminary community now.
PAUL GOFGAN, Seminarian: I think it's fortunate now in today's seminaries that we are dealing with sexuality and we are open about it.
It really behooves the individual to, to know what preference he, he has, and to deal with that and to be comfortable with that, because you cannot embrace celibacy without embracing your sexuality.
RON ZANONI, Seminarian: The church is talking about things that perhaps were not talked about at all, I mean, as recent as ten or 20 years ago. So I hope that openness is growing not only for younger priests but also for, for older priests as well.
SPENCER MICHELS: Thomas Plante counsels Catholic priests who commit sexual abuse. His studies show that 60 percent of all sex offending clergy were abused themselves.
And he says that while some people blame the demands of celibacy for abuse -- studies show Catholic priests don't offend more than other clergy.
PROF. THOMAS PLANTE, Santa Clara University: The percentage of clergy, regardless of religious tradition who have a sexual predilection for minors is the same, whether they're a priest, rabbi, Protestant minister.
So the percentage of clergy involved with minors seems to be similar among the different religious traditions.
SPENCER MICHELS: That figure, says Plante, is about 5 percent of priests.
But, he says, Catholic offenders tend to have more victims -- because of the hierarchical nature of the Church.
PROF. THOMAS PLANTE: You have one pair of eyes, the local bishop or religious superior, and because of that, if that particular bishop or religious superior doesn't deal with the situation, then it's like a virus that spreads and when they move them from parish to parish, again it's like a virus that spreads.
SPENCER MICHELS: Plante believes abusive behavior can be treated and controlled -- though not cured.
Treatment centers for abusive priests were set up in the 1970s and still exist.
Bishop Walsh says the Church operated for years on the principle that pedophilic priests could be rehabilitated.
BISHOP DANIEL WALSH: I think we were being more and more made aware that this was a sickness but we were told at that time by the psychiatrists that it could be cured, and so we would send priests to these various centers of learning or institutes and they would be quote straightened out.
Well, now we are told it's not curable, so we have learned along with the rest of society that certain areas of human behavior are permanent and therefore we act upon it in that way.
SPENCER MICHELS: Past victims of abuse like Donald Hoard say the Catholic Church has been overly concerned with the welfare of the perpetrators rather than the victims who carry the scars of abuse for a lifetime.
DONALD HOARD JR.: I was confused for a long time about, you know, why did God do this to me. And it's very hard to explain to someone that, you know, people look at me and they say you're successful and you have a beautiful wife and kids and a great job and you went to Berkeley and you still feel like that eleven year old that's tainted. And it doesn't go away.
SPENCER MICHELS: Still, aspiring priests -- like their elders -- worry that today's sexual scandals are tainting the church in the eyes of many Americans.
RON ZANONI: What troubles a lot of us I think is that people will have the impression that the whole church is like that and, you know, it ignores the, you know, the vast, vast majority of priests that are good priests and really there to serve the church and the people.
SPENCER MICHELS: At the same time, many reformers believe there is a positive side to this tragic story.
They say the publicity and harsh criticism surrounding the sex scandals has forced the Church, for the first time, to deal publicly with a problem kept hidden for many years.