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  Guilty Priest Back on Job
Victims' Group: SB Diocese Move Sign of Betrayal

By Felisa Cardona
San Bernardino Sun
June 6, 2003

San Bernardino — A priest convicted in 1992 of battery for touching the genitals of three boys has been assigned to handle administrative duties for a religious order in the Diocese of San Bernardino, Bishop Gerald R. Barnes said Friday.

After a year of reviewing the record of the Rev. Ponciano Ramos,Barnes decided the priest should be allowed to work as an administrator at the Society of the Divine Word in Riverside.

"The Bishop and the Diocesan Review Committee unanimously agreedthat Father Ramos should be brought back to active ministry, but in a carefully structured and supervised manner,' said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the diocese, which covers San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Steve Sanchez, a member of the Los Angeles chapter of theSurvivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the bishop's decision is a sign that he was turning his back on victims.

"If a teacher in a high school was accused and convicted of thesame thing, would the San Bernardino school district allow that teacher to be there? Absolutely not,' Sanchez said.

Ramos touched ther genitals of three boys while he was workingat a school in Indianapolis. He pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges of battery and received an 18-month suspended sentence.

Lincoln said there wasn't enough evidence to convict Ramos ofmolestation because he did not appear to have touched the boys for the purpose of sexual gratification.

Several stink bombs had been set off at the Indianapolis school,and Ramos searched the boys to find out who did it, Lincoln said.

"He used poor judgment to investigate and used entirelyinappropriate conduct, but it was not molestation of children,' Lincoln said. "It was a search that went way, way beyond appropriate boundaries.'

Ramos' last assignment was administrator of St. Mary of theValley parish in Yucca Valley.

He resigned April 6, 2002, after the San Bernardino Diocese wasmade aware of the touching incident when a Chicago Tribune reporter called to inquire about it.

Sanchez, who says he is a victim of sexual abuse by a priest,said the touching incident sounds suspicious.

"How do we know that he was searching for a stink bomb?' Sanchez asked. "How do you know he's not trying to see who is vulnerawho is not? Maybe this is his way of finding out who the next victim might be.'

Mary Grant, southwest regional director of the survivors group,said the bishop is sending the wrong message to Catholics in his diocese by retaining Ramos.

"Clearly this diocese again just confirms what we knew all alongit's not safe for kids,' Grant said. "I can't even imagine after all that has happened that a bishop would want to continue to take the risk of having these abusers in the church. It's an intimidation and a threat to every child in that diocese.'

Lincoln said the bishop is confident that Catholics in the diocesewill respect his decision.

"Our diocese is very confident of Father Ramos' suitability forthis ministry, and the length of the proceedings shows Bishop Barnes' commitment to the protection of children,' Lincoln said.

Barnes met with Ramos at least four times in the last year and hadseveral meetings with his supervisors, Lincoln said.

Ramos also underwent a psychological evaluation and entered thefour-month Clinical Pastoral Education program to learn better ways of relating with parishioners, Lincoln said.

Lincoln said the program is intense and designed to help Ramos"improve a genuine and caring pastoral relationship with people.'

Diocesan officials said they made the announcement public on Fridayto demonstrate openness and accountability.

Lincoln characterized Ramos' return as a gradual re-entry intoministry.

Ramos won't be engaged in any public sacraments such as Masses,weddings, confessions or baptisms in the immediate future, but if he continues to do well, Ramos could return to those duties, Lincoln said.

Ramos won't have any unsupervised contact with minors, he said.

"[Barnes'] approval of Father Ramos' assignment shows ourcommitment to justice and fairness,' Lincoln said. "We believe the people will see that.'

 
 

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