Another Oakland Catholic Priest Flees from Justice
An priest from the Catholic Diocese of Oakland who today was due in court on charges of misdemeanor sexual battery skipped his arraignment and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. This is the second priest from the Bay Area to flee from justice after being arrested for sex crimes in the past two years and we urge the FBI and Homeland Security to get involved in this case.
Fr. Varghese “George” Alengadan was arrested last month, though the charge only became public last week. Within a week of the story hitting the news, Fr. Alengadan chose to flee from justice, becoming the second active priest from the Diocese of Oakland on the run from the law (Fr. Alexander Castillo absconded in March of 2019). We are concerned because Fr. Alengaden seems to us to clearly be a dangerous man. Abusers are generally charismatic and skilled at fooling people - their victims, their bosses, law enforcement, and in the case of Catholic priests, Catholic parishioners.
Since the letter of the law clearly means little to Fr. Alengadan, we do not put much stock in Bishop Michael Barber’s edict that the cleric cannot present himself as a priest. Rather, Bishop Barber must do a lot more to honor Fr. Alengadan's Oakland Diocese victims, to assist law enforcement and protect others from harm.
Diocesan officials in Oakland must immediately cooperate with the district attorney and local police and prosecutors – in addition to the FBI and Department of Homeland Security – to help track where Fr. Alengadan has fled. The priest is most likely receiving a paycheck from the Diocese of Oakland, and money is likely being withdrawn while he is on the run. The Diocese of Oakland should assist law enforcement with financial tracking, helping to identify where Fr. Alengadan is so he can be extradited back to the US.
Beyond this assistance to federal and state law enforcement, Diocesan officials in Oakland can take several additional steps to support victims and encourage others to come forward:
First, Bishop Barber should publicly apologize to Fr. Alengadan’s victims and urge anyone who may have been hurt by him or witnessed his abuse to come forward. There may be other crimes the DA can pursue. Bishop Barber can make this easier by publicly listing Fr. Alengadan on his list of “credibly accused” priests, along with his full work and education history and a headshot. This information should be shared throughout the Diocese and especially with every location where Fr. Alengadan lived or worked.
Second, Bishop Barber should immediately rescind Fr. Alengadan's 2017 honor as a "Priest of the Year". He was honored after his victims directly contacted the Bishop and clearly that recognition is empty. In fact, honoring him probably made him more brazen and intimidated his victims. To us it seem obvious that Fr. Alengaden is not worthy of any honors whatsoever.
Finally, we cannot help but note that a single misdemeanor charge was all it took for Fr. Alengadan to become a fugitive. This leads us to believe that there are far more – and more serious – crimes in his history. We hope that law enforcement officials take note of this too. We believe that the District Attorney and the Attorney General should investigate the Diocese to ensure that no information about past offenses is being withheld. They should also investigate the Diocese to determine if they may have assisted or had any knowledge about Fr. Alengadan’s flight. Two priests fleeing from justice in two years is not normal and warrants secular oversight.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)