Trinity Mount Ministries

Friday, October 19, 2018

The stories behind each of San Jose’s 15 accused priests

John Woolfolk, Julia Prodis Sulek, Tatiana Sanchez and Matthias Gafni

    These are the priests named Thursday by the Diocese of San Jose as credibly accused of abusing children during their time in the diocese.

    Leonel Noia

    While a pastor at the former St. Patrick parish in San Jose, Noia was arrested and convicted in 1976 after two boys reported he sexually abused them on a camping trip. When he got out of jail in 1978, he was transferred to three other San Jose parishes: St. Julie Billiart until 1982, St. Anthony until 1986 and Five Wounds, where he served for 16 years until 2002, when the church banned all priest child molesters from ministry. Each time Noia was introduced at a new parish, according to a newspaper account in 2004, either he or the pastor announced to the parish his past record. The same news account says he was accused of sexual misconduct with two boys while he was at St. Anthony’s parish in 1985, although the the family didn’t pursue compensation or a lawsuit and those accusations are not listed in the diocese account.

    Robert Gray

    While a priest at St. Justin parish in Santa Clara from 1991 to 1993, Gray was accused of sexually abusing three teenage boys he taught in a karate class, including at least one from St. Christopher parish. In 1993, in exchange for a no contest plea in one case, two other counts were dropped. Gray served 160 days in jail and received psychiatric treatment before returning to the diocese in 1995, when he was given a job as an administrator in the cemeteries department. He was still allowed to serve Mass weekly at different parishes and preside over weddings. He was permanently banned from ministry in 2002, in accordance with the Dallas Charter.

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    Hernan Toro

    Originally of the Archdiocese of Popayan in Colombia, Toro was accused of sexual misconduct with a child while at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Alviso in 1983. He was convicted and registered as a sex offender in 1983, but that didn’t stop his work in the church. After his conviction, Toro went on to serve at St. Athanasius Parish in Mountain View; St. Catherine Parish in Morgan Hill; and St. Aloysius Parish in Palo Alto. He was sent to a detention ministry in 1988 and was permanently banned from the ministry two years later. Toro retired that year and now lives in San Leandro, according to the Diocese. The allegations against him had not previously been disclosed.

    Laurent Largente

    Father Laurent Largente is pictured in an article from the Friday, October 27, 1967 issue of The Spartan Daily, the San Jose State University newspaper. Largente is on a list of 15 priest names released by San Jose Bishop Patrick McGrath on Thursday he said were found to have been credibly accused of abusing kids within the diocese. 

    Largente was removed from ministry in 1994, the same year the victim came forward recounting sexual molestation by Largente at St. Patrick Cathedral between 1980 and 1983. The case apparently wasn’t made public until this week. Largente was put on leave from St. Patrick’s in 1987, although the reason isn’t explained. He was transferred to Church of the Ascension in Saratoga later that year. Although he was “removed from ministry” in 1994, in accordance with the Dallas Charter, he was permanently banned from ministry in 2002.

    Thomas Bettencourt

    Bettencourt reportedly engaged in sexual misconduct with a child while serving at St. Justin Parish in Santa Clara in 1982. The diocese says the abuse was not reported until 1997, seven years after Bettencourt, the 48-year-old scion of two well-known San Jose families and a heavy smoker, died from respiratory failure. From 1974 to 1988 he served at parishes and Catholic schools from San Francisco to San Jose to Campbell to Los Gatos. In a 1981 article, a year before the abuse, Bettencourt told a reporter he found the most satisfaction in “restoring the faith of someone who has been driven from the church by the insensitivity of some other priest.” Bettencourt’s father, Anthony Bettencourt, owned a fountain at 17th Street and Santa Clara Avenue that became a popular hangout for San Jose families, and his mother Elizabeth was part of the Pasetta construction family. The allegations against Bettencourt had not previously been disclosed.

    Joseph Pritchard

    Pritchard, a priest from the 1950s through late 1980s, was accused of sexual abuse by at least 19 victims, at least 10 from St. Martin of Tours parish in San Jose and one from St. Nicholas in Los Altos. The cases weren’t made public until the early 2000s, when the St. Martin’s victims came forward. However, the father of one of the victims said that in 1977, he wrote a letter of complaint to church officials and was told that Pritchard was in therapy and would be transferred. Pritchard left St. Martin’s in 1978 and moved to St. Nicholas in Los Altos, where he served until the year of his death in 1988. The diocese’s list Thursday said it was not alerted to Pritchard’s abuse until lawsuits were filed in 2002 and 2003. However, a victim’s father mailed a letter in 1977 alerting church officials to the abuse of his son and other children by Pritchard. Over the years, the diocese has said the letter didn’t exist, but it later stipulated in court that the father sent the letter.
    Attorney Rob Mezzetti, who represented about 10 of Pritchard’s victims, said “that list is wrong and they know it’s wrong.” Mezzetti said he deposed Bishop McGrath during the case.

    Alexander Larkin

    Father Alexander C. Larkin. This photo appeared in the Saratoga News, September 11, 1996. 

    Larkin was removed as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Saratoga in 2005 after the diocese was served with a lawsuit by two men who allege he molested them while they were altar boys at Our Lady of the Rosary in Palo Alto in the late 1970s. One of the men, known as “John Doe 31” in court filings, told the Mercury News in 2005 that Larkin was a trusted friend of the family who visited them three to four times a week. He escaped his abuse, he said, when he went off to college. At the same time he was filing his lawsuit, the diocese was contacting law enforcement and initiating an investigation into Larkin based on an anonymous letter posted on car windows at Sacred Heart. The letter writer described being abused as a teen by Larkin at St. William in Los Altos. Larkin was put on restrictive ministry duties in 2005 and was permanently banned in 2009. He still resides in San Jose, according to the diocese.

    Don Flickinger

    Don Flickinger is on a list of 15 priest names released by San Jose Bishop Patrick McGrath on Thursday. McGrath said the priests were found to have been credibly accused of abusing kids within the diocese. (Courtesy of KMPH/FOX26) 

    The diocese found credible sexual misconduct allegations involving children against visiting priest Flickinger while he stayed at St. Frances Cabrini in San Jose and Sacred Heart Parish in Saratoga from the 1990s to the early 2000s. The diocese said they learned of the abuse in 2002, 2005 and 2006, the latter year Flickinger was permanently banned from the ministry.
    Flickinger, who was a visiting priest from the Fresno diocese and allowed to stay in the South Bay rectories as he cared for his ailing mother, was sued by at least three individuals who alleged he molested them as children — two boys and a girl. At the Saratoga parish, Flickinger would hear confessions and prepare second-graders for their First Communions.

    George Moss

    Moss was accused of sexual misconduct with children while at St. Joseph Parish in Mountain View from 1963 to 1976, when it was part of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The allegations were reported in 2002, 2004 and 2012 to the Diocese of San Jose, established in 1981. Moss had retired in 1976 and died a decade later, the diocese said. The allegations had not previously been made public.

    Noel Senevirante

    Senevirante was accused of sexual misconduct with a child some time between 1971 and 1972 while at St. Leo the Great School in San Jose. The San Jose diocese associated him with a diocese in Sri Lanka but indicated he spent time in San Jose in 1970 at St. Martin of Tours, St. Leo the Great and St. Maria Goretti parishes. The abuse was reported in 2002 and the diocese said he was permanently banned from ministry that year and that he died in 2009. The allegations against Senevirante had not previously been disclosed.

    Phil Sunseri

    Sunseri was accused of sexual misconduct with children at St. Christopher Parish in 1986 and while at Holy Family Parish the following year. The abuse was reported in 1987 and 2018, and the diocese said Sunseri was permanently banned from ministry in 1988 but still living in San Jose. The allegations against Sunseri had not previously been disclosed.

    Philip McCrillis

    McCrillis was accused by two sisters of sexual misconduct during his time at St. Albert the Great Parish & St. Patrick Seminary between 1968-1969. The sisters said McCrillis became close to the family after their parents divorced and that he and their mother had an affair. When they were in junior high, they said he began molesting them. Parkinson’s disease forced him to retire in 2003. The sisters sued in 2004, won a settlement, and he was banned from ministry that year. Aside from several pastoral assignments, McCrillis also ran two restaurants and wrote poetry. But by the time he died in 2007, many parishioners still didn’t know about the accusations, and those that did were angered by the glowing obituaries and memorials he received upon his death.

    Angel Mariano

    Mariano was reported and convicted in 1998 of having sex with a 17-year-old boy that he met in an internet chat room. He was convicted of two felonies and spent five months in Santa Clara County Jail. Mariano was permanently banned from the ministry in 1998, the same year he left Most Holy Trinity Parish in San Jose. But according to parishioners, the diocese didn’t disclose the information to them, and many wondered why Mariano quietly left the church without notice. They didn’t find out about the charges against him until 2002, when his name came up in news reports in a list of priests accused of sexual abuse. After being forced out of the church, Mariano, like other priests, was taken to Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos.

    Joseph Dondero

    Dondero was accused of sexual misconduct with a child while at St. Joseph Parish in the 1960s, according to the diocese, which said the incident wasn’t reported to them until 2002. Dondero had several pastoral assignments throughout the South Bay and a stint at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles in the 1950s. After leaving St. Thomas Cantebury Parish in Campbell in 1980, Dondero spent seven years at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, where he died in 1997.

    Arthur Harrison

    Harrison was accused of sexually abusing children he met at St. Frances Cabrini parish in San Jose between 1974 and 1976, as well as at Our Lady of Loretto Parish in Novato in 1961. Although he was not her parish priest, one of the victims told this news organization that said she had been repeatedly molested in the 1970s at Harrison’s cabin in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Harrison was listed as chaplain at San Quentin Prison at the time. The first victims didn’t come forward until 1988 — after Harrison had been serving for 10 years as priest at St. Elizabeth parish in Milpitas and had moved to Church of the Ascension in Saratoga. In 1989, Harrison was put on leave. He retired in 1992, was permanently banned from ministry in 2002, and died in 2005.

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