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  Priest's Name Removed from Facility
Amidst Allegations of Abuse

By Melissa Evans mevans@angnewspapers.com
Tri-Valley Herald [Fremont CA]
Downloaded April 2, 2004

FREMONT -- The parish center at Corpus Christi Catholic Church no longer is dedicated to the memory of Rev. James Clark, after church leaders decided it would not be appropriate to keep the priest's name on the building in the wake of sexual-misconduct accusations brought by three former altar boys.

Removing Clark's name from the building was a difficult decision, said the Rev. Tim Stier, current pastor of Corpus Christi, who met with Dan McNevin, one of Clark's accusers, shortly before The Argus ran a story last week detailing McNevin's accusations.

"I believe Dan's story," Stier said. "I felt out of consideration to the alleged and actual victims, it was the right thing to do."

McNevin, 45, said he was touched by the decision. "It's a gesture that shows a great amount of compassion toward my family and me, as well as the other victims of Father Clark," he said.

McNevin's lawsuit, filed in December, asks for an unspecified monetary settlement and the removal of the sign. McNevin said he was sexually abused at age 12 after Clark invited the former altar boy to answer phones in the parish office.

After months of "grooming" -- a process of identifying vulnerable victims and gaining their favor to dissuade them from speaking up about sexual abuse -- Clark fondled McNevin in the church rectory, McNevin said.

The two other victims, who are not named in the lawsuits, have accused Clark of similar abuse. One of them severed his hand after a mental breakdown in 1980, and will remain institutionalized for the rest of his life, according to the lawsuit.

Clark, who died in 1989, served at Corpus Christi from 1964 to 1984. He oversaw construction of the parish center, and it was named in his honor upon completion in 1969.

McNevin hopes the sign's removal will encourage other victims to come forward.

"This choice doesn't only support my healing, but also signals to the unknown victims that it's becoming safer for survivors to tell their story and seek help," he said. "I hope that this marks the start of reconciliation for the parish community and the victims."

Stier, who discussed the decision with his pastoral council, put a notice in the parish bulletin announcing the removal of Clark's name. So far, five members of the parish have objected to the decision, Stier said.

Even though the allegations have not been proven, Stier said he felt it was the right decision. Officials with the Diocese of Oakland also have acknowledged the credibility of McNevin's story, Stier added.

"Wherever (Clark) is in the sight of God, it won't affect his happiness," he said. "We wanted to provide outreach and compassion to Dan and anyone else who comes forward."

Staff writer Melissa Evans covers religion and culture for The Argus. She can be reached at (510) 353-7005 or mevans@angnewspapers.com .

 
 

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