Santa Barbara Franciscans Hit with New Sexual Assault Complaint

With the statute of limitations on such cases soon set to expire, a 40-year-old Santa Barbara County resident identified only as John Doe filed legal papers in court alleging he’d been sexually assaulted at the hands of the Franciscan Friars of California, the Old Mission Santa Barbara, the Roman Catholic Diocese, and the San Roque Catholic Church.
Father Robert Van Handel | Credit: Courtesy

Specifically, the complaint charges that Father Robert Van Handel and Monsignor Vincent McCabe sexually abused the plaintiff in 1989 when he was a 5th grader singing in the St. Anthony’s choir under the direction of Van Handel and serving as an altar boy at the San Roque parish under the guidance of Monsignor McCabe. According to the complaint, both Van Handel — criminally convicted for sexually abusing multiple members of the choir and sentenced to time behind bars — and McCabe, who died in 2015, three years before he would be named in what church leaders deemed a “credible” complaint — abused the plaintiff by touching his buttocks and genitals. Van Handel used the pretext of helping the boy change his uniform to do so. On one occasion, Van Handel reportedly had the plaintiff sit on his lap while the priest accompanied the boy on the piano while practicing the song “Tea for Two.”

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