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  Former Altar Boys Call Priest Abusive
Respected Pastor Placed on Leave at Saratoga Church

By Robin Evans
San Jose Mercury News
January 8, 2005

A respected priest who once held one of the highest positions in the San Jose Diocese has been put on administrative leave following allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

Monsignor Alexander Larkin was removed as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Saratoga last month, when the diocese was served notice of a lawsuit by two men who say he molested them between 1975 and 1980. They were altar boys at Our Lady of the Rosary in Palo Alto at the time.

Larkin is the first diocese priest to be removed since 2002, when three priests were suspended after the Roman Catholic church's adoption of a zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse. Larkin was not available for comment.

Diocese spokeswoman Roberta Ward said Larkin was an excellent administrator who, in 1992, was named director of pastoral ministry, one of the diocese's largest offices.

"Al's one of our great pastors and priests. He's really respected, so it's a great tragedy," Ward said. Larkin has also been pastor at St. John Vianney in San Jose, St. Thomas Aquinas in Palo Alto and St. William in Los Altos.

One of the plaintiffs, a 40-year-old Bay Area man, told the Mercury News that Larkin was not just a pastor but an intimate friend of the family. Larkin visited three to four times a week and joined the large family at their vacation house in the North Bay, he said. Larkin was his mother's confidant when his parents divorced and his father left.

"Throughout all this time, he would come over to our house and they would have parties with lots of alcohol. He would wrestle with us or give back rubs. It was physical horseplay; it didn't seem out of place," said the man, named John Doe 31 in court files.

But on a camping trip, the back rubs progressed to his whole body. At onepoint, the priest put the boy's hand on his penis, Doe said. "I was a little kid -- in 7th grade -- it really blew me away."

Back home, Larkin often followed him to his room, which was in a remote part of the house. "Sometimes he would take his clothes off and get in bed with me."

Afraid to tell his parents, the plaintiff said, "I finally escaped it by going away to college." Coming to distrust priests, he said, he never reported it to the diocese.

The suit against the San Jose and San Francisco bishops is one of 161 against Northern California dioceses coordinated as Clergy III in Alameda Superior Court. It was filed in December 2003, just before the expiration of a year-long window extending the California civil statute of limitations in such cases. A similar extension on the criminal statute of limitations was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2003.

At the same time Doe 31 was filing his suit, 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. Larkin was there in 1981, according to Ward.

The writer had spoken by phone with church officials, including Bishop Patrick McGrath, as early as January 2003, but would never tell them his or the priest's name, said Monsignor Frances Cilia, diocese vicar general.

Without a complainant, a prosecution cannot proceed, said Victoria Brown, Santa Clara County assistant district attorney in charge of sex crimes.

Larkin read a statement after every Mass, denying the allegations and urging parishioners to call the diocese if they had anything on him to report, said Cilia.

"Nothing came," he said.

 
 

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