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Former Grass Valley priest on Sacramento diocese list of credibly accused clergy

A former priest of St. Patrick Church in Grass Valley is one of 46 ministers named by the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento in a list of credibly accused clergy.

Simon Twomey, who served at the local church from 1999 to 2003, is accused of abusing a girl under 18 years old around 1975 and 1976. At that time Twomey served at churches in Chico and Carmichael, diocese records state.

Twomey is one of 44 priests and two permanent deacons named on the list of credibly accused clergy. Kevin Eckery, spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, defined credible as more likely than not to be true.

The Sacramento Bee, which published the names Tuesday, obtained records collected by the church after Bishop Jaime Soto ordered staff to search personnel files and create the list.

Twomey served at several churches during his career before his 2009 retirement. The diocese learned of the reported abuse in 2018. An investigation by the diocese is pending, documents state.

Eckery said church officials intend to investigate older cases that likely are past the statute of limitations.

“In all likelihood, the criminal statute of limitations has expired,” Eckery said of Twomey’s accusations.

It’s unknown how long the investigation will take, he added.

The allegations led the diocese last year to withdraw Twomey’s faculties, meaning he can’t celebrate Mass, perform weddings or sacraments, or wear a priest’s collar. He also can’t live in a rectory, but continues to receive a pension, Eckery said.

St. Patrick Church declined to speak about Twomey, referring comment to a pastoral care coordinator. That person referred all comment to Eckery.

The priest

Terry McAteer, former Nevada County superintendent of schools and a member of The Union Editorial Board, said he knew Twomey when the priest served in Grass Valley. Molested by a priest when he was 10, McAteer said he was shocked by the accusations against Twomey.

“It doesn’t change my opinion of him,” McAteer said.

McAteer called Twomey his parish priest. While serving here Twomey asked McAteer to help at Mt. St. Mary’s Academy. McAteer opted to assist the school, adding he knew nothing about any accusations of impropriety against the priest at the time.

McAteer noted that his own history of molestation had become public at the time. McAteer chose to speak with Twomey about his situation and they commiserated.

In fact, Twomey is quoted in a March 2003 story in The Union about the sexual abuse of children and teens by priests.

“‘It’s God’s house, but people do evil acts within the house of God,’” Twomey said at the time. “‘The hardest part is building trust’ with a person who has suffered sex abuse from a person affiliated with the church.”

The diocese states Twomey retired in 2009 from a Chico church. The Chico Enterprise-Record reported that year he planned to return to his native Ireland.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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