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SJ Pastor Resigns Over Sex Offender Volunteer Scandal

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Mark Christopher Gurries

Mark Christopher Gurries (California DOJ)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – The Catholic Diocese of San Jose announced Monday that the pastor who allowed a registered sex offender to volunteer at an elementary school festival last month has stepped down from his position at St. Frances Cabrini Parish.

The Rev. Lieu Vu resigned from his position as pastor at the school and parish on Monday, according to the diocese.

The diocese also released a copy of a November 2010 letter that allowed convicted sex offender Mark Gurries to attend and volunteer at a festival on Oct. 6 at the school and parish at 15325 Woodard Road in an unincorporated area of Santa Clara County near San Jose.

The letter confirms that the Diocese of San Jose knew Gurries’ legal status as a sex offender and allowed him to volunteer at the parish and in school activities as long as they did not involve regular, unsupervised contact with children, youth or vulnerable adults.

State law only allows a registered sex offender onto school property around children if he or she can produce written permission from a school administrator, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.

The diocese said in a statement that the letter was prepared by the Personnel Department of the Diocese of San Jose but was not authorized or approved by Bishop Patrick McGrath or his Vicars General. The author of the letter was redacted by the diocese.

Over the weekend, McGrath wrote a letter apologizing to parents and community members for the diocese allowing Gurries to volunteer at the festival.

“Our policy is clear: no one who has been found guilty of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult can be hired as an employee or allowed to volunteer in any activity that involves children, young people, or vulnerable adults,” McGrath wrote.

“I am deeply troubled and I apologize to you that this policy was not followed,” he wrote.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) issued a statement today from the organization’s outreach director Barbara Dorris expressing relief about Vu’s resignation but saying questions still remain.

Vu “needlessly and deliberately put kids in harm’s way,” Dorris said.

Noting that the letter allowing him to go on school property was written in 2010, she said “it is frightening to think of the original purpose of the letter and to disclose and denounce the church employee who wrote it.

“It’s time for him to punish those who endanger kids, not just vaguely apologize for some alleged bureaucratic snafu,” she said.

Following Vu’s resignation, McGrath appointed Reverend Monsignor J. Patrick Browne as Administrator Pro Tempore of St. Frances Cabrini Parish, according to the diocese.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith will be at the school on Nov. 27 from 2 to 6 p.m. to meet with parents and respond to their concerns, McGrath said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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