Seminary Leader Shocked by Sex Abuse Allegations against Woodburn Priest
By Noelle Crombie
August 14, 2012
A priest who knew the Rev. Angel Perez in his final year at Mount Angel Seminary said he never saw the 46-year-old show “any tendency toward children in an inappropriate way.”
“I am sitting here in absolute shock,” said Monsignor Richard Paperini, now the parish priest at Christ the King Catholic Church in Milwaukie. Paperini was president of the Mt. Angel Seminary in 2001. Perez was ordained the following year.
On Monday, Perez, now the parish priest at Saint Luke Catholic Church in Woodburn, was arrested after police responded to a complaint at about 1:30 a.m. Monday alleging inappropriate contact between the priest and a 12-year-old boy.
He faces accusations of sexual abuse, use of a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct and furnishing alcohol to a minor. Perez was booked into Marion County Jail Monday evening and remains held without bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned at 3 p.m. in Marion County Circuit Court, according to the jail.
Paperini said he was careful to screen out candidates for the priesthood who showed signs of inappropriate feelings toward children.
“Given the information we had, we made the best judgment we could and that judgment was that he was ready, and he was not a pedophile and something like this wouldn’t happen,” Paperini said.
“I take the law very seriously and I take the church very seriously,” he said. “We want to protect children at all costs, I would never knowingly recommend anyone for ordination that I thought would do something like this. There were times when I asked students to leave, not because they had done anything illegal, but because I thought they might have a tendency toward this. And I was criticized by others for it because I took that seriously.”
He said he hasn’t kept in touch with Perez since his ordination, but recalls the pride the Catholic community felt over having an Hispanic priest.
Paperini said the case will inevitably prompt Catholics to ask: “Why does this keep happening? It’s my question as well.”
“No person comes with a neon sign on their forehead that says, ‘Careful. Watch out for this guy,’” Paperini said. “You look for the signs and if you don’t see them, you take the normal course of action. If you see something, you act on it."
Perez is only the second priest to face criminal charges in Oregon since 1983, when the Rev. Thomas Laughlin was convicted of molesting two boys in Multnomah County.