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  San Jose Removes 2 Priests
San Jose Expels Pair of Priests
Convicted Sex Abusers Stripped of Jobs, Rights

By Janine DeFao
San Francisco Chronicle
June 23, 2002

The Diocese of San Jose has permanently removed from ministry two priests convicted of sexually abusing minors, meaning they will lose not only their jobs but their ability to say Mass in public or identify themselves as priests.

Bishop Patrick J. McGrath took the action Friday, one week after U.S. Catholic bishops meeting in Dallas approved a new policy requiring that any priest who has sexually abused a child, even once, lose his ministerial duties. San Jose is believed to be the first local diocese to take such action. "We came home (from Dallas) believing the charge was to act immediately," said the Rev. Francis V. Cilia, a top aide who accompanied McGrath to Dallas. "The bishop did not believe he had any discretion in this."

Neither priest was currently working with the public at a local parish, Cilia said Saturday.

Stripped of their duties were the Rev. Leonel Noia, who had served 16 years as the pastor of Five Wounds Portuguese National Church in San Jose, and the Rev. Robert A. Gray, superintendent of cemeteries for the diocese.

McGrath -- whose diocese includes 52 parishes and missions in Santa Clara County -- also informed two retired priests accused of sexual misconduct that they would no longer be able to lead public lives as priests. The diocese declined to name the retired priests.

Noia was convicted of molesting a boy on a 1976 camping trip and served jail time. He has been on a yearlong sabbatical since April and had not been expected to return to Five Wounds Church.

Gray was sentenced to probation following a conviction for sexually abusing a teenage boy whom he was teaching karate in 1993. He has filled only administrative roles in the diocese since his conviction, Cilia said.

The penalty set forth in Dallas means neither man will be able to celebrate Mass, except in private, perform sacraments such as baptisms and weddings, dress as a priest or identify himself as a priest.

But the bishops stopped short of requiring that abusive priests be defrocked, or completely removed from the priesthood, which angered some victims groups.

Cilia said McGrath is not seeking to have either priest defrocked.

He described the two men as "two good priests who have something in their past. . . . Neither was judged to be a danger to society."

"This is a very sad thing for all of us," Cilia added. "But for the sake of credibility, there has to be action."

 
 

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