photo- san antonio winery site
The Salesians of California have had ties to San Antonio Winery of Los Angeles for over 50 years, which may answer the question of why the sacramental wine producer still includes a Salesian rapist in a promotional documentary in 2012.
San Francisco Salesian priest Fr. Steve Whelan, a clergy sex abuser who lost a court jury trial for molestation in 2006, was filmed in a documentary about communion wine called “California Bountiful-Urban Legend”. Fr. Whelan still appears in the film 4 years after he lost the civil trial for molestation filed by Joey Piscitelli, a child abuse victims advocate, and a SNAP leader, in July of 2006.
When confronted as to why the winery would have the Salesian child rapist priest Fr. Whelan represent the sacred wine and the winery, San Antonio spokesperson Steve Riboli stated on October 15th, 2012 in an e-mail that, “We do not know Fr. Whelan, … and we are not familiar with any type of filming.”
But contrary to that statement, Tracy Sellers, the producer of the San Antonio Winerys documentary “Urban Legend”, stated: “We did in fact interview Fr. Steve Whelan for a story about San Antonio Winery. He was a great guy. He works at a church in San Francisco where they use the wine as a sacramental wine”.
Salesian sex abuse victims said that since Fr. Whelan is “still working” – as the film producer reiterated, there is “substantial evidence that Whelan is a practicing priest in ministry.” This fact is contrary to the Catholic Bishops Charter and policy, which forbids proven sex abuser priests to work in active public ministry. The Diocese of San Franciscos Bishop, Salvatore Cordileone, has been silent on the issue.
An elder Italian Catholic female parishioner who was interviewed at St. Peter and Pauls in San Francisco on October 21st for a response stated, “ Why in the world would the Bishop allow a molester to speak for our sacred wine?”
Perhaps the answer may be in the connection between the winery and the California Salesian Order. According to a feature article in the Saint Anthony Messenger, entitled “San Antonio Winery – A Faith Based Business”, winery owner Steve Riboli recalled the ties to the Salesians of California – that bonds the winery to the Salesians of San Francisco.
The Messenger article states: “In the 1960s the winery was rescued by a church official when the Southern Pacific Railroad threatened to tear it down. Fr. Louis Masoero, a Salesian priest, who was principal at St. Bosco Technical Institute for Boys, had been a regular customer and friend of Stefano Riboli and family. Through the priests public-relations efforts among leading people in the community, petitions were signed. Eventually, the city and the railroad rethought a route through the winery.”
“The winerys choice of ties to the California Salesians to return the favor may have been a humiliating mistake” another Salesian sex abuse victim stated.
Fr. Masoero, the Salesian priest whom the winery spokesperson Steve Riboli mentions – was pastor at St. Peter and Pauls Church in San Francisco in 1971 – when Salesian child abuse victim Joey Piscitelli was molested by Fr. Whelan. Fr. Masoero was also in close quarters with San Francisco Salesians Fr. Lorenzoni, Fr. Miani, Fr. Dabenne, and Fr. Presenti, – all accused and/or convicted serial molesters.
Although San Antonio Winerys connection to the California Salesians, Fr. Masoero, and Fr. Whelan is apparently well documented, San Antonio Winery spokesperson Steve Riboli sent a second e-mail on October 15th, further denying knowledge of the film about his family winery, which he appears in himself, just prior to Fr. Whelan. Fr. Whelan is featured in the written version of the sacramental winery story, and in the documentary film as well.