Priest Arrested for Not Reporting to Police Sexual Molestation by a Church Program Leader

By Sheryl Kornman
Tucson Citizen [Tucson AZ]
November 29, 2004

A priest assigned last summer to St. Monica's Parish in Tucson has been arrested on a charge that he failed to report an allegation of sexual abuse of a girl by a male church program leader.

The incident took place in October, Tucson police said.

It was reported to police Oct. 18 by a lay counselor who was counseling the minor.

The priest, Father Raul Valencia, was arrested in connection with a state law that requires mandatory reporting of allegations of sexual molestation of a minor.

He was released on his own recognizance, pending the outcome of the case, and is on administrative leave with the diocese. He was an assistant pastor at St. Monica's at the time of the alleged incident.

Also arrested on a charge of failing to report the incident was an adult female volunteer, then the co-director of the youth program at St. Monica's, according to Sgt. Carlos Valdez, a Tucson police spokesman. Her name was not released by authorities. She also was released on her own recognizance.

Valdez said the minor had sex with the adult male co-director of the teen program.

A minor cannot give lawful consent to sex with an adult.

Valdez said police are seeking the male suspect, who is believed to have fled the area, to charge him in the case.

Valencia, 45, a former dentist, is a native of Nogales, Sonora, and a U.S. citizen who was ordained June 7, 2003.

He was recently assigned as pastor of St. Jude Parish in San Luis and was serving in that capacity at the time of his arrest.

He is "voluntarily participating in further education and training on the child abuse mandatory reporting law," according to a statement issued by Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas.

"All of us are saddened and disheartened to learn about this situation," the statement said.

Father James Hobert, the pastor at St. Monica's, also reported the sexual abuse allegation to police Nov. 10.

Kicanas said that although the teen apparently had asked that the incident not be reported to authorities, anyone who works or volunteers for the diocese is bound by law to report an allegation of child molestation.

"There are no mitigating circumstances for not reporting something. You need to report it, even if the victim doesn't want you to," Kicanas said.

The diocese has offered counseling to the teen, through the police, he said.

The bishop repeated his conviction that, following the multimillion dollar settlement of sex abuse claims against the diocese, anyone who has contact with young people through the diocese must know about the mandatory reporting law.

"Anyone who works with youth should be trained and screened," Kicanas said.


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