|Priest Removed over Past Misconduct with Minor
By Joe Goldeen
January 07, 2010
Stockton - The Rev. Leo Suarez, a 22-year Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Stockton, has been relieved of his duties after admitting to engaging in sexual misconduct with a minor 20 years ago, according to a brief statement issued Wednesday by the diocese.
Suarez was ordained as a priest in 1988 and was assigned to work at St. Anthony's parish in Hughson through 1991, during the time the single reported incident took place. He later worked at St. Stanislaus in Modesto (1991-92), St. George's in Stockton (1992-97), was pastor at St. Edward's in Stockton (1997-2006), Sacred Heart in Turlock (2008-09) and most recently, Our Lady of Fatima in Modesto.
Bishop Stephen Blaire, head of the Diocese of Stockton, said in the statement:
"It is with sadness that I announce that Father Leo Suarez, a priest of the Diocese of Stockton, engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor 20 years ago. The diocese has received no other allegation against him in regard to minors."
Blaire continued: "Father Leo Suarez has expressed deep sorrow over the hurt he has caused. He is currently in residential treatment and will no longer be able to exercise priestly ministry. I hold in prayer all who have been hurt by what happened."
Blaire requested that anyone with information about a similar incident of sexual misconduct should notify Sister Barbara Thiella, the diocesan victim-assistance coordinator, at (209) 466-0636.
Suarez is said to be well-known within the church's large Latino community, according to diocesan spokeswoman Sister Terry Davis. She said the statement was issued as soon as the church learned of the incident "so we can find out if there are any other victims. We only know about one."
Davis said no law enforcement or other public agency has been drawn into the case, citing the statute of limitations. She could not provide any further details and said it would be wrong to assume it occurred at St. Anthony's.
The diocese came forward, Davis said, because "it's just that it has come to light. It would have had to come out at some point anyway. It just was appropriate to let the public know about it."
Contact reporter Joe Goldeen at (209) 546-8278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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