Congregation Learns Former Priest in Jail
Ex-Priest Served at Church in 1976, Molested Child in 1990s

By Lois Gormley
The Desert Sun [Coachella CA]
December 29, 2003

COACHELLA -- Representatives from the Diocese of San Bernardino visited Our Lady of Soledad this weekend to advise parishioners that a former priest who once spent time at the church is now serving a 10-year sentence for child molestation.

Anthony Rodrigue, now 67, was a priest in residence at the Coachella church from June to September of 1976, according to a statement issued at every Mass this weekend at Our Lady of Soledad and two other churches -- St. George in Ontario and St. Joseph the Worker in Loma Linda.

A priest for 20 years, Rodrigue was removed from the priesthood in 1982 by Bishop Phillip Straling, said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church Diocese in San Bernardino.

Rodrigue’s conviction stems from the molestation of a child in the 1990s, well after he had left the church, Lincoln said.

Lincoln said no victims from Soledad or any of the other churches in which Rodrigue worked have come forward to date, but the diocese feels it is part of its responsibility to advise people he was there and encourage anyone who may have been victimized to come forward.

The weekend visit is part of the church’s ongoing effort to be "open, accountable and transparent" with the issue of child sexual abuse by church personnel, Lincoln said.

If any victims come forward, the diocese will help them with the filing of police reports, provide counseling if it is desired and generally assist them in any way possible, he said.

Last June, the Diocese placed the Rev. Saul Ayala of Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mecca on administrative leave following allegations of sexual misconduct from 20 years earlier.

Lincoln said that matter is still under review by the diocese.

If anyone was victimized by Rodrigue or knows of one of his victims, they can contact civil authorities, call the diocesan hot line at (888) 206-9090 or use the sexual abuse reporting form available at the church office.

Lois Gormley is a reporter for The Desert Sun. She can be reached at 778-4640 or by e-mail.


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