Bishop Talks about Pending Sex Case against Priest

By Shanna Sissom
The Telegram
July 8, 2004

Just weeks before a former Midland priest stands trial accused of sexually assaulting a child, San Angelo Diocese Bishop Michael Pfeifer recalled how the allegation of childhood sexual abuse came forth from a young parishioner.

"It started when the individual was at a religious gathering and he manifested he had been abused," Pfeifer told the Reporter-Telegram.

The Rev. Domingo Estrada, 61, is charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child and three counts of indecency with a child by contact.

Following a Midland County grand jury indictment, Estrada pleaded not guilty in state district court. A jury trial is scheduled for July 19.

Estrada is accused of abusing a boy under the age of 14 numerous occasions during a four-day span that June. The offenses are alleged to have occurred in 1990.

At the Catholic function, Pfeifer said priests there encouraged the young man to tell them what happened.

"That's when it got to my office," Pfeifer said. "He was told by a priest he had every right to go to civil authorities."

Estrada, who worked at Our Lady of Guadalupe from 1986 to 1996 is a member of the religious order of Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), an order to which Pfeifer also belongs.

Pfeifer said the first time he heard of criminal charges was about three or four months ago, but conceded he had first heard of the original accusations years previously.

"I had heard about two years ago there was some concern about an individual who had said he had been molested in some way," Pfeifer said.

Before that, Pfeifer said he had never heard a complaint "of that nature" against Estrada.

The bishop said he offered to meet with the young man upon hearing the accusations.

"Then it kind of went dormant for about six to nine months," Pfeifer said. "We were trying to determine the facts."

Despite being the diocese's bishop, Pfeifer said it was Estrada's superiors with OMI that routinely assigned Estrada to new ministries.

"His superiors have talked to him and he has flatly denied it," Pfeifer said.

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