San Jose Diocese Releases Names of Clergy Accused of Abuse

The Diocese of San Jose on Thursday released the names of its clergy who have been "credibly accused" of child sex abuse. The list named 15 priests, most of them already dead.

"I express my deepest apologies for the actions of those who were in positions of authority and who violated that sacred trust by abusing children,” Bishop Patrick McGrath said in a letter accompanying the list. “The sexual abuse of children and young people is an appalling crime and a sin. When these perpetrators are members of the clergy, there are not only psychological wounds but spiritual wounds."

The list, which mostly contains accusations made decades ago, was released after the the Bishop held four listening sessions for survivors and members of the church. McGrath said the meetings were informative and painful. He also defined “credible accusation,” a term some abuse victims feared would lead to an incomplete list because the Church would be the ultimate arbiter of an accuser’s credibility. 

“A credible accusation is one after all the information has been gathered that normal people would look at that and say there is a problem here," McGrath said. "And that to me would be credible. And then we would do more investigation again just to make sure.”

Some question whether the list goes far enough in addressing the sexual abuse of children and say the church needs to open its records to law enforcement or an independent third party.

"This whole investigation should not be controlled and managed by the bishop, he should ask the DA or the attorney general's office to investigate and help people heal," said Dan McNevin of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

The San Jose Diocese was the first in the Bay Area Diocese to say it will release the names of priests in response to new revelations about priest sex abuse in Pennsylvania and around the world. The Diocese of Oakland said it will release its own list around Thanksgiving, but the Diocese of San Francisco has yet to commit to any such action. 

Several priests included on today’s list continued to serve in parishes around the Bay Area, even after credible allegations of sexual abuse, specifically: Rev. Don Flickinger, Rev. Arthur Harrison, and Msgr. Alexander C. Larkin.

Msgr. Alexander C. Larkin was reported in 2003 but served at Sacred Heart in Saratoga until 2005.

Liz Sullivan, a spokesperson for the diocese, said Larkin was placed on leave after those allegations were deemed credible. Sullivan said Flickinger, who came to San Jose from the Fresno Diocese to be near his ailing mother, was sent back to Fresno after the diocese learned of the allegations against him.

Others, including Rev. Robert A. Gray, Hernan Toro and Rev. Leonel Noia were assigned to various parishes after being criminally convicted.

The Diocese of San Jose says the Catholic Church changed the way it handled these cases after 2002, when the Dallas Charter was established. The Charter is a comprehensive set of procedures established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy.

“They have demonstrated over and over again that they cannot govern themselves,” John Salberg, a survivor of sex abuse by Rev. Joseph T. Pritchard in San Jose said. “They cannot investigate themselves. They're incapable of doing so.”

A statement released today by the Diocese says they received the first report on Pritchard in 2002. But Salberg said he went to church leaders, including Bishop Patrick McGrath, in 2000 to share his story of abuse when he was twelve-years-old at St. Martin’s of Tours Parish in San Jose.

According to Salberg, the Diocese was also warned about Pritchard decades prior, when the parents of another victim reported the priest to the Diocese in the 1970's. Pritchard was transferred to St. Nicholas in Los Altos in 1979, but never faced criminal charges. He died in 1988.

“I don't believe they're being proactive, I believe they're being forced into the situation, but it's the right thing to do now,” Salberg said.

“We have hidden nothing,” Bishop McGrath said in an interview on Wednesday in repsonse to Salberg’s allegations.

NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit found the list likely captures just a fraction of Catholic priests accused of child sexual abuse in the South Bay.

Five religious order priests accused of sexual misconduct in Santa Clara County and listed on the Bishop Accountability Project website were conspicuously absent from today’s list.

“Allegations of sexual abuse of children by religious order priests who served or resided at schools and other institutions operated not by the Diocese but by their religious order in Santa Clara County were investigated by the religious order, to which the priest belonged,” Sullivan said in a written response to questions from NBC Bay Area. “In these cases, without their personnel files, we do not know whether the allegations were deemed credible and cannot responsibly release their names.”

The list also excludes accused priests from other dioceses who worked in the South Bay at some point in their service. 

A recent lawsuit filed in Southern California, accusing hundreds of priests from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles of sexual abuse, shows at least nine of those priests spent time working in the South Bay, and 20 others in the greater Bay Area. 

The criminal statute of limitations has expired on all sex abuse cases included on today's list that have not already been prosecuted.

The Diocese of San Jose has arranged for former FBI Executive Assistant Director, Dr. Kathleen McChesney, and her firm, Kinsale Management Consulting, to oversee an in-depth independent review of all records of the Diocese pertaining to the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults committed by any cleric appointed by the Diocesan Bishop to serve in the Diocese.

“There can no longer be a culture of secrecy in the Church, but one of transparency and accountability,” Bishop McGrath said a statement released today. “ Our work will not be complete until all of those who have been harmed have received assistance in healing and until the evil of child sexual abuse has been eradicated from society.”

Churches, Schools and Religious Centers with Links to Publicly Accused Priests

This map includes names released by the San Jose Diocese, names of priests who have been identified by Bishop Accountability and names of priests identified in lawsuits. Note: This map will be updated as more information is released.

Source: San Jose Diocese, Bishop Accountability
Credit: Sean Myers/NBC Bay Area

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