Accused SF Priest May be in Mexico

July 12, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KCBS) -- A San Francisco Catholic priest accused of sexual misconduct with minors may be in Mexico.

A statement from the Archdiocese of San Francisco printed in yesterday's Catholic San Francisco newspaper says 59-year-old Father Jose Chavarin was recently accused of sexually abusing several minors in San Diego in the 1980s. The statement says the San Diego Diocese contacted civil authorities and the San Francisco Archdiocese on Monday, June 20, immediately after learning of the allegations.

According to the church statement, San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer confronted Chavarin with the charges, which he denied.

"Father Chavarin was placed on administrative leave, and told to remain in the area. Shortly thereafter though, it became evident to us that he had left the area and had more than likely gone to his native Mexico," said Archdiocese of San Francisco spokesman Maurice Healey.

The priest has not been charged with a crime, so it is not illegal for him to leave the country, though it is concerning to the Archdiocese that he has been gone for three weeks.

Father Chavarin has been working for the past 11 years in the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese in charge of canon law matters.

"So he was not specifically working with children, but just as anyone may have had contact with children, he may have," said Healey. "So we're working on outreach to parishes to raise visibility."

The statement says the archdiocese received a phone message from an acquaintance of Chavarin Monday, June 23, saying he had gone to Mexico, and would return soon. The statement concludes by saying that the San Diego diocese has notified San Deigo police that Chavarin is missing.

The Catholic San Francisco newspaper says the statement was sent to parish pastors and clergy on Wednesday.

Healy tells KCBS he believes the San Diego police have been in touch with San Francisco police about the case. He added that the San Francisco Archdiocese provided all of the information it had about Chavarin to the police in San Diego.


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