Rev. James W. or William J. Aylward

Summary of Case: In 1997 Aylward was caught in a darkened rectory room with a teen-age boy by fellow priest, Fr. John Conley. Conley reported suspected child sexual abuse to legal authorities and then to the archdiocese, and was subsequently placed on leave by Archbishop Levada. Conley was told to keep quiet about the incident, and to seek psychotherapy. Aylward denied wrongdoing and was allowed to continue in active ministry. Alyward admitted in a 1999 deposition that he had inappropriate sexual contact with boys for years. He was then placed on leave.

: 1964
Retired: 2005


Start Stop Parish Town/Accusations State Position Notes


San Francisco archbishop was Joseph Thomas McGucken (1962-1977)

1965 St. Emydius San Francisco CA 3/5

Parish had a school with 362 boys and 365 girls.

Aylward is referred to as "William J." in the 1965-1970 Directories.

1965 1967 St. Dunstan's Millbrae CA


In residence.

Parish had a school with 200-199 boys and 200-201 girls.


McGucken was succeeded by John Raphael Quinn (1977-1995)

1979 Archdiocesan Commission on Church Music San Francisco CA Chairman 1977-1979  
1967 1970 St. Timothy's San Mateo CA


In residence.

Parish had a school with 173-139 boys and 175-179 girls.
1970 1973

St. Bartholomew's

San Mateo CA 2/3

Parish had a school until 1971 with 126 boys and 121 girls.

Beginning with the 1971 Directory, Aylward is referred to as "James W. "

1973 1975 Catholic University Washington DC    
1975 1978 St. Gabriel's San Francisco CA

3/5, 2/5

Msgr. Francis Quinn was pastor.

Parish had a school with 702-632 students.
1976 1978 Archdiocesan Worship Commission San Francisco CA    
1977 1979 Archdiocesan Director of Music San Francisco CA    
1978 1979 Archdiocesan Music and Worship Commission San Francisco CA Director  
1979 1985 Archdiocesan Ministry of Worship, Art and Music San Francisco CA Director  
1978 1980 Most Holy Redeemer San Francisco CA 2/3 Parish had a school until 1979 with 141 students.
1980 1981 Cathedral of St. Mary (Assumption)    San Francisco CA   3/4 The Cathedral had a school with 157 students.
1981 1986 Good Shepherd

Pacifica CA 2/2, 2/3 Parish had a school with 280-238 students.
1986 1990 St. Emydius

San Francisco

Aylward admitted in 1999 to having "inappropriate physical contact" with minors for his own sexual gratification at this parish, among others.

CA 2/3 Parish had a school with 204-214 students.
1990 1995 St. Sylvester's San Rafael CA 1/2  


Quinn was replaced by William Joseph Levada (1995-2005)

1998 St. Catherine of Siena


Aylward was found in 1997 by another priest in a darkened St. Catherine's rectory room with a teen-age boy. Aylward initially claimed it was just "horseplay and wrestling", but admitted in a 2000 deposition that he had a history of inappropriately touching minor boys.

CA 1/4, 1/1

Parish had a school with 322-324 students, and a religious education program with 130-190 students.

Aylward was not prosecuted. A subsequent lawsuit by the boy's family against the archdiocese resulted in a settlement.

Rev. John Conley, the priest who discovered Aylward with the boy, was placed on leave by the archdiocese after he reported the incident. When Conley told Bishop McGrath that he had reported the incident to the D.A., McGrath responded, "... we usually keep these things in-house."

Conley later sued the archdiocese, claiming Levada retaliated against him for reporting suspected child sexual abuse. Conley was told not to tell anyone of the accusation and to seek psychotherapy.

The church settled with Fr. Conley in 2002 after Aylward admitted to molesting minors.

1998 2000 Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Mill Valley CA 2/3 Aylward was quietly moved to this parish by Levada after having been accused of molesting a boy at his previous parish.
2000 2005 Absent on Leave        


George Hugh Niederauer followed Levada as San Francisco archbishop (2005-)

2010 Retired        


Sources: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1965-2010)

S.F. Archdiocese Settles Abuse Suit, Contra Costa Times (California), May 22, 2000
Burlingame Priest Sues S.F. Diocese, By Elizabeth Fernandez, San Francisco Chronicle, November 24, 2000
Special Reports: Catholic Bishops and Sex Abuse, Dallas Morning News, downloaded Feb. 18, 2004.
Church Settles Suit by Whistle-Blower, By Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, November 27, 2002
See No Evil, By Ron Russell, San Francisco Weekly, May 21, 2003l
Settling Things Quietly, By Ron Russell , SF Weekly, January 14, 2004
The Man Who Keeps the Secrets, By Jason Berry,, San Francisco California [San Francisco CA], Downloaded September 22, 2005
Cardinal Has a Mixed Record on Abuse Cases, By Michael Luo, The New York Times, May 5, 2010
Vatican's Top American Has Mixed Record on Abuse, By Gillian Flaccus and Brooke Donald, The Associated Press, May 14, 2010

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Aylward's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on April 13, 2021.