The Catholic diocese in San Jose has released the name of 15 former priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children. Of the named abusers, 10 are dead and the rest banned from the ministry.
“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,” San Jose Bishop Patrick McGrath said in a statement Thursday. “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, but spiritual wounds.”
The six living priests are Phil Sunseri, Hernan Toro, Angel Mariano, Alexander Larkin, Robert Gray and Don Flickinger. Seven of the priests on the list— Sunseri, Toro, Thomas Bettencourt, Joseph Dondero, Laurent Largente, George Moss, Notel Senevirante—had never before been publicly outed as pedophiles, according to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
According to the diocese’s disclosure, most of the allegations involved abuse in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. At least two priests, Toro and Leonel Noia, were reassigned to the ministry even after being criminally convicted of pedophilia.
Noia worked at St. Julie Billiart, St. Anthony and Five Wounds churches in San Jose after his 1976 conviction. Toro went on to serve at Mountain View’s St. Athanasius, Morgan Hill’s St. Catherine and Palo Alto’s St. Aloysius parishes after his 1983 conviction.
The church said it considers an allegation credible if it involves a priest’s admission or an investigation by law enforcement or an independent oversight body.
Thursday’s announcement came 10 days after the San Bernardino Diocese revealed the names of 34 abusive priests. San Jose’s was the first Bay Area diocese to follow suit. McGrath, who released the list in three languages, said he has also hired a former FBI agent to review how church leaders have handled past abuse complaints.
“There can no longer be a culture of secrecy in the church, but one of transparency and accountability,” McGrath said. “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.”
The bishop’s full statement is posted below.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
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. 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.
In the Diocese of San Jose, we have worked diligently to create a safe environment in which to worship, learn, and gather in our parishes, schools and other institutions. Every bishop, priest, deacon, employee, and volunteer, who have contact with children in any capacity, must undergo a background check and triennial training on how to prevent, recognize and report the sexual abuse of children. It is my commitment to build on the efforts of the past and continue to improve upon them.
To that end, I am releasing the names and status of all priests with credible allegations of sexual abuse of children occurring within the Diocese of San Jose. These priests were assigned to a parish or diocesan ministry in Santa Clara County by the Bishop of San Jose or, in the years before our founding in 1981, by the Archbishop of San Francisco.
We have attempted to make this list as accurate and complete as possible. In November, Dr. Kathleen McChesney will lead an independent team to audit our priest personnel files. Should additional credible allegations surface during the investigation, those names will be added to the list that I am providing today. Dr. McChesney is a former FBI Executive Assistant Director.
Our vigilance, training, and prevention efforts are ongoing and we continually seek to improve them. I have spoken to many survivors of abuse who have come forward, and I thank them for their courage. I personally encourage any survivors, who have not previously come forward, to do so by contacting the local authorities – police department or sheriff’s office – and then to make a report to our Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults at 408-983-0113 or opcva.ethicspoint.com.
There can no longer be a culture of secrecy in the Church, but one of transparency and accountability. 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.
With every best wish and kind regard, I remain,
Patrick J. McGrath
Bishop of San Jose