Bishop Says Late Priest Abused Minors in Imperial Valley

Associated Press State & Local Wire [Calipatria, Calif.]
March 3, 2003

Church officials have disclosed that a priest who died in 1999 molested several children during his 27-year tenure at a Catholic parish in this small Imperial County town.

A letter from Bishop Robert Brom distributed to parishioners Sunday said an investigation found the Rev. Robert S. Koerner "sexually abused children throughout the years of his pastorate at St. Patrick's, from 1963 to 1990."

Brom apologized to Koerner's victims and their families.

"I wish to reach out to them with pastoral concern and care and to promote healing and reconciliation with them," he wrote.

Rodrigo Valdivia, the diocese's chancellor, said "more than two or three" victims have been identified so far. He said the victims were "generally boys."

Brom, whose diocese includes San Diego and Imperial counties, first learned of the accusations in October during a visit to the small, predominantly Latino church.

Valdivia said there was no record of complaints made against Koerner.

The Rev. Amador Lopez, who has been at St. Patrick's for the past five years, said no one ever mentioned a problem to him.

"I was so surprised when the bishop told me about it," he said.

In his letter to parishioners, the bishop said no priests who have sexually abused minors are in active ministry in the Diocese of San Diego.

Calipatria, about 100 miles east of San Diego and 50 miles north of the Mexican border, has a population of about 3,800, not including 4,000 inmates at the Calipatria State Prison.


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