Fr. Robert Van Handel – Diocese of Oakland

Father Robert Van Handel

Diocese of Oakland/FranciscansRobert Van Handel Horowitz Law

Ordained: 1975

Laicized: 1997

Assignment History:

  • 1975-1991: St. Anthony Seminary (Santa Barbara, CA)
  • 1991-1992: Franciscan Friars Provincial House, Oakland, CA
  • 1992: St. Luke Institute (Suiteland, MD)
  • 1993-2020: Unknown

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Father Robert Van Handel:

A Franciscan priest in California, Fr. Robert Van Handel, started a boys’ choir in Berkeley and later moved to Santa Barbara, where he taught at St. Anthony’s Seminary High School and founded the Santa Barbara Boys’ Choir. At these locations, Fr. Van Handel allegedly abused at least 25 boys from 1975 to 1992, including his own nephew.

The first allegation of child sexual abuse against Fr. Van Handel came in 1992 and resulted in Fr. Van Handel being removed from active ministry. He was then sent to St. Luke Institute, an institution known for treating priests accused of child sexual abuse.

In 1994, Fr. Van Handel was criminally charged with sexually abusing students and sentenced to eight years in prison. He only served four years in prison and was on parole for four years. After his release in 1998, he moved to Santa Cruz, California, and is a registered sex offender.

A sexual autobiography written by Father Robert Van Handel for a therapist was released describing the sexual events throughout his life, including his abuse of children. In the document, he claims that he was sexually abused as a student at St. Anthony’s in the 1960s. He states, “There is something about me that is happier when accompanied by a small boy…Perhaps besides the sexual element, the child in me wants a playmate.”

Fr. Van Handel was laicized in 1997. He was included in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ list of priests accused of sexual misconduct involving minors and the Oakland Diocese’s list, and the Santa Barbara Province Franciscans’ list in 2019.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Oakland in California.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in California, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Oakland now have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so do not delay in reaching out to us.  Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in California and nationwide. We can help. 

Contact us at (888) 283-9922 or to discuss your options today.