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SJ Diocese: Allowing Priests To Return After Abuse Convictions "Misguided Attempt At Rehabilitation"

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- Among a list of 15 priests from the San Jose Diocese with credible accusations of sexual abuse, three of them were convicted of abuse and later allowed to return to the clergy. The diocese now says it was wrong to allow those priests to continue working.

Former Catholic priest Robert Gray pleaded no contest in 1993 to sexually abusing a teenage boy while assigned to St. Justin Church In Santa Clara.

Gray went to jail and to therapy. He was eventually welcomed back into the church where he another seven years before finally being forced out by a zero tolerance policy adopted in the wake of the church's sex abuse scandal in 2002.

"Just because a priest wears the roman collar and he's a priest, if he commits a crime that doesn't excuse it," said St. Justin parishioner Arlette Weaver. "There's no justification for that. Wrong is wrong."

The cases of Gray and two other priests, Hernan Toro and Lionel Noia, point to a troubling trend. All three men were convicted of abuse - Toro even had to register as a sex offender. But all three were eventually allowed back into the church - as parish priests or in other jobs.

Survivors says the church's treatment of the three men fits a sad but familiar pattern.

"As a survivor, I think it's disgusting," said abuse survivor Joey Piscitelli. "It overwhelms you with how bad it was for all of the victims and all of the kids who could have been saved but weren't."

A spokesperson for the diocese says all three cases pre-date the current zero-tolerance policy for U.S. priests accused of abuse.

In a prepared statement, the diocese wrote, "We now know, based on the current psychological best practices, that returning these men to ministry was a misguided attempt at rehabilitation … and the diocese has abolished the practice as part of the zero tolerance established by the Dallas charter."

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