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  W. Side Priest Ousted Abuse Allegations Stir Congregation

By Suzanne Hoholik and Cary Clack
San Antonio Express-News [Texas]
June 23, 1998

The Archdiocese of San Antonio has removed a West Side parish priest from his duties after he was accused of sexually assaulting an altar boy 22 years ago.

Father Jose Luis Sandoval, pastor of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, has denied the allegations. No charges ever were filed.

Among disbelief, tears, clapping and yelling, parishioners of St. Alphonsus were told Monday night of the allegations.

Monsignor Lawrence Stuebben, vicar general and director of administration of the archdiocese, spoke to about 150 people.

At one point, the man making the allegations approached the pulpit and in a wavering voice told how he had been abused.

Parishioners had been informed of the allegations at Sunday Masses, and Stuebben came to the church Monday night to provide details and answer questions.

The allegations against Sandoval were reported to the archdiocese June 5, one day after the archdiocese announced a $4 million settlement in a civil suit filed by the families of seven boys who accused Father Xavier Ortiz-Dietz of sexual misconduct.

Ortiz-Dietz is serving a 20-year sentence after pleading no contest in 1993 to three sexual abuse charges involving altar servers.

Stuebben told the parishioners a 33-year-old man spoke to Auxiliary Bishop Patrick Zurek on June 5 about Sandoval.

The man, who was not identified, said he'd read about the Ortiz-Dietz case and another highly publicized Dallas case involving a pedophile priest, Stuebben said.

The alleged incident took place 22 years ago when Sandoval was an associate pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in San Antonio.

Stuebben said the matter was turned over to the archdiocese's crisis-intervention committee, which spoke to both men. A report was then sent to Archbishop Patrick Flores on June 8.

"The report indicated that the information was believable, though Father Sandoval denied the allegations," Stuebben told the parishioners.

After Sandoval was relieved of his priestly duties, the archbishop requested a meeting with him June 9.

"Father Sandoval did not come to see the archbishop. In fact, he left the parish that night," Stuebben said. "We do not know where he is. He simply left the parish."

Flores was in Rome on church business Monday and could not be reached for comment.

Stuebben said Sandoval's parents had been visiting from Mexico, and he had taken them to Laredo.

The archbishop, Stuebben said, wrote Sandoval a letter and sent a copy to his parent's home in Mexico informing him he could no longer function as a priest in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

As Sandoval's supporters passionately defended their priest, the man who made the allegations sat in anonymity in the back of the church. He is not a member of the parish.

"It's hearsay," a man who refused to identify himself said. "I've known him (Sandoval) since I was 14 years old and I'm 40 now. He's not the type of person who would initiate this action."

Before the meeting began, the man explained to reporters why he decided to go public.

"If there are any children who have been exposed to this kind of abuse, they need to come forward," he said.

As the meeting went on and his credibility was attacked, he shook his head in disbelief.

One hour into the meeting, he got up and approached the pulpit. Stuebben then let him tell his story.

As he spoke in a breaking voice, he repeatedly was interrupted by hostile questions and fingerpointing.

Support for him came when Roy Munoz came up to the pulpit and placed his hand on his shoulder and said, "The Bible says that everything that is hidden should come to the light. It takes a lot of guts to come up here."

Applause broke out in the church.

Munoz continued, "He's talking about my priest, but if it comes to light that this is true, all of you who are accusing him (the young man) should go to confession."

A louder round of applause broke out, but by this time, the young man, had retreated in tears to the sacristy, followed by Stuebben who sought to comfort him.

Lifelong parishioner Elvira Gomez was impressed when the man walked up to the altar to give his side of the story.

"I think child abuse can never be tolerated in the home, school or the church," she said. "They (the archdiocese) did the right thing. I think he had a lot of courage. God bless him."

Stuebben told the parishioners that in examining Sandoval's personnel file, it was discovered that a complaint had been filed against the priest when he was in Sabinal in 1985.

"It alleges inappropriate behavior with a juvenile, which was resisted by the 15-or 16-year-old," Stuebben said.

The monsignor said anyone with allegations of children being sexually abused should contact Sister Adele Massaro, the pastoral assistant, who will operate the church until a new priest is named.

 
 

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