Catholics Urged to Report Abuse
Inland: a Letter Is Read in Three Churches Where a Convicted Sex Offender Had Served As a Priest.
By Melissa Eiselein firstname.lastname@example.org
The Press-Enterprise [California]
December 27, 2003
Christian Chavez, 8, sat close to his mother and father during Saturday's Mass at St. George Catholic Church in Ontario as a representative from the Diocese of San Bernardino urged parishioners to tell police or church officials if they've been sexually abused by anyone in the church.
"It was the first time for us as Catholic church-goers to hear that kind of announcement," said Christian's father, Ed Chavez, 43, of Ontario. Chavez said he was surprised by the announcement but not offended. "I think it's good. It keeps us aware of the situation," he said.
A letter from the Office of the Bishop was read Saturday at St. George Catholic Church in Ontario, St. Joseph the Worker in Loma Linda and Our Lady of Soledad Catholic Church in Coachella, where convicted sex offender Edward Anthony Rodrigue had served as a priest. Diocese officials called on parishioners of the three Inland churches to come forward if they have been victimized by church personnel or know of anyone who has been.
Rodrigue, 66, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $7,000 in 1998 after pleading no contest to molesting an 11-year-old developmentally disabled Highland boy. He is in a Northern California prison.
Rodrigue had been placed on probation in 1979 after he pleaded no contest to charges of molesting an Ontario boy. Rodrigue continued to serve the church until 1982 and eventually lost his priesthood in May 1991, said diocese spokesman the Rev. Howard Lincoln.
The letter will be read again today during services at the three churches.
Lincoln said the timing of the letter had nothing to do with a sexual abuse statute of limitations extension that will expire Wednesday. The law, which became effective Jan. 1, granted a one-year window for victims of molestation to refile suits that were previously dismissed due to expired statue of limitations.
"We're reading this letter because we have pledged to be open, accountable and transparent," Lincoln said.
The Diocese of San Bernardino, which covers all of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, has been under scrutiny for more than a decade as suits have been filed against it alleging abuse by priests.
The Rev. Edward Ball, formerly of Our Lady of Fatima Church in San Bernardino, pleaded guilty in 1992 to multiple counts of lewd conduct. In 1993, priests in Rubidoux, Riverside and Lake Elsinore resigned after abuse allegations surfaced. A Lake Elsinore woman sued a Corona priest who she said molested her teenage son in 1994. The civil suit was settled out of court in 1996. In June, charges were dropped against a former San Bernardino priest who still faces charges in Boston. He is accused of paying to molest and rape boys before being transferred to San Bernardino in 1990.
While the letter will not be read in all 110 churches, Lincoln said the diocese is committed to serving its parishioners and has taken steps to encourage its members to come forward with any allegations.
"We showed a video, 'The Healing Body of Christ,' in every parish in January. We invited victims to come forward," he said. In addition, he said, "Sexual abuse report forms have been placed in all the parishes within the past month."
"A much better church will rise out of this," Lincoln said.
Staff writer Michael Fisher contributed to this report.
Reach Melissa Eiselein at (909) 567-2409 or email@example.com.
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