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  Veteran Priest Arrested || Teen Tells Police That the Rev. Gerardo Jarencio Tanilong, 71, of the Diocese of Orange Molested Her over the Weekend

By Eric Carpenter and Eleeza V. Agopian
Orange County Register
July 15, 2003

ANAHEIM A priest who has served in the Catholic Diocese of Orange for 17 years was arrested Monday after a 15-year- old girl told Anaheim police that he molested her Saturday night.

The Rev. Gerardo Jarencio Tanilong, 71, assigned to Our Lady of Guadalupe-Delhi, a largely Spanish-speaking congregation in the Delhi neighborhood of Santa Ana, was booked on suspicion of child molestation after Anaheim police interviewed him Monday morning.

Police would not say where the alleged molestation occurred, only that the incident took place in Anaheim. Tanilong was being held on $50,000 bail at the Orange County Jail.

The allegations could prove damaging for the Diocese of Orange, which declared in March that its clergy roster was free of molester priests. Bishop Tod D. Brown said at the time that the church was a "safe haven" for the county's 1 million Catholics.

Officials at the diocese would not discuss the allegations Tuesday. A news release from the diocese said this is the first allegation to emerge against Tanilong in his 17 years in Orange County.

"I am surprised to hear the allegations," said the Rev. Juan Cababoy, a priest at St. Columban Church in Garden Grove. "I know him to be a good priest who has served for quite some time."

Auxiliary Bishop Jaime Soto placed Tanilong on administrative leave until the outcome of the investigation is known. If found guilty of sexual misconduct, Tanilong would be permanently removed from the ministry, the diocese said.

The unidentified teen and her parents went to church officials Sunday and reported that the teen had been molested the night before. Church officials brought the teen and her parents to the Anaheim Police Department the same day to report the allegations, police Lt. Joe Vargas said. "It's refreshing to see the church taking an aggressive stance," he said.

Tanilong came to the police station Monday morning to be interviewed. Afterward he was booked and taken to jail on suspicion of lewd conduct with a minor.

Tanilong, born in the Philippines, was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1962. He served at Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Joachim and St. Boniface -- all parishes in Orange County. Most recently he served at St. Callistus in Garden Grove before being reassigned to the Delhi neighborhood in July 1999.

Irene Martinez, executive director of the nonprofit Delhi Center, said she didn't know Tanilong, but said the church has strong roots in the community.

She said she hopes the arrest will prompt parents to talk to their children about sexual abuse.

"It's important that parents talk to their children and make them aware it's not OK for people to abuse their closeness with the child," she said.

Diocese officials said they were unaware of any other allegations against Tanilong. If there are, they urged that they be reported to police or to the diocese reporting line at (800) 364-3064.

The Diocese of Orange's Sexual Misconduct Oversight and Review Board has been made aware of the allegations and will oversee the church's response, church officials said.

Joelle Casteix, who served on the oversight committee for six months before resigning last year, said she was pleased to see the church act quickly.

Casteix, 32, resigned in December because she said the committee had been ineffective. Last week she filed her own lawsuit against the diocese, alleging she was sexually abused as a 15-year-old student at Mater Dei High School.

"They (the church) need to continue to be this vigilant, if not more vigilant," she said.

 
 

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