Priest placed on leave after Oakland Diocese acknowledges earlier sexual impropriety allegation

By Matthias Gafni
San Francisco Chronicle
February 23, 2020

Alengadan had been head pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Berkeley in 2002.

The Rev. George Alengadan was reassigned twice after five women said he sexually harassed them.

This Bay Area woman alleges that the Rev. George Alengadan, whom she had wanted to officiate at her wedding in 2003, groped her in 2002 when she went to talk to him.

Alengadan had been head pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Berkeley in 2002.

The Catholic Diocese of Oakland has opened a new investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by the Rev. George Alengadan, shown in an undated photo.

The Rev. Alengadan was assigned to Christ the King Church in Pleasant Hill most recently.
Photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez

The Catholic Diocese of Oakland has placed an embattled priest on leave and opened a new investigation into a sexual misconduct allegation against him after The Chronicle informed church officials of a 2002 complaint by a parishioner who says he groped her.

The discipline came after the diocese had previously told this newspaper that the Rev. George Alengadan — who has been moved out of two parishes since July after five women came forward alleging sexual harassment and Alameda police opened a criminal probe — had no earlier allegations of sexual impropriety.

The parents of the alleged victim said they reported the 2002 fondling allegations to the diocese in the immediate aftermath, deciding against going to police because they trusted the church to handle it internally. But they said they never received a response. The mother again alerted the diocese of the complaint in 2016, sending an email to Bishop Michael C. Barber, but said again nothing was done.

It was only after an inquiry from The Chronicle and a series of articles about its controversial reassignment of the 67-year-old priest that the diocese acknowledged the earlier claim. In a town hall at Christ the King Church in Pleasant Hill on Wednesday night, furious parishioners fumed at how the diocese had quietly moved the priest there, many asking how the church could continue such actions almost two decades after the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal broke in Boston.

Diocese Chancellor Stephen Wilcox apologized for the handling of Alengadan, telling a room of about 100 parishioners he “should have known better.”

“I don’t think this is rocket science,” Wilcox explained to the crowd about how the diocese plans to improve its transparency.

“Apparently it is!” one woman yelled from the pews.


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