Accused of Abuse in "80s, Priest May Have Fled

By Matthai Kuruvila
San Francisco Chronicle

July 17, 2008

The Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco has reported that one of its priests has probably fled to Mexico after being accused of sexually abusing several minors.

The alleged incidents involving the Rev. Jose Chavarin were committed in the 1980s in the Diocese of San Diego. But the allegations emerged only in June, according to Maury Healy, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Chavarin has been a part of the Archdiocese of San Francisco for 11 years, mostly in administrative roles.

On June 20, the Diocese of San Diego notified the Archdiocese of San Francisco about the allegations by the victims, who are now adults. Chavarin was called to meet with Archbishop George Niederauer the next day, when he denied the abuse allegations, Healy said.

Chavarin, 59, asked if he could visit his mother, who lives in San Diego near the Mexico border, but Niederauer told him not to, Healy said.

Nonetheless, on June 23, the archdiocese received an anonymous phone call from Mexico saying that Chavarin had been killed in a car crash. The archdiocese inquired with authorities about any potential deaths or injuries involving Chavarin to ensure he was getting appropriate medical or mortuary care as a U.S. citizen, but there was no trace of any such incident, Healy said.

The diocese later got another anonymous phone call saying that Chavarin had fled to Mexico, but that he planned to return.

The archdiocese notified parishes on July 9 and printed a notice about Chavarin's flight in the July 11 edition of Catholic San Francisco, the diocesan newspaper.

Healy said the Diocese of San Diego notified San Diego police about the incidents. Neither group returned calls to The Chronicle on Wednesday.

Most recently, Chavarin had been working as part of the San Francisco Archdiocese's Metropolitan Tribunal, where married couples apply to get annulments.

Healy said there's a chance Chavarin had contact with minors during his residencies at several Bay Area parishes. He has either lived at or worked as an administrator at San Francisco parishes St. Kevin, St. James, St. Elizabeth and St. Mary's Cathedral. He also served at Sacred Heart in Olema and Our Lady of the Pillar in Half Moon Bay.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is urging potential victims or their families to contact authorities.

E-mail Matthai Kuruvila at


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