|Molester Due for Prison Release
Ex-Priest: He Will Go to a San Bernardino Halfway House. He Served Time for Abusing a Highland Boy.
By Michael Fisher
The Press-Enterprise [California]
January 18, 2006
A former Inland priest accused in lawsuits of molesting at least 19 altar boys is due to be released from prison next week to a downtown San Bernardino halfway house, a relative and authorities said.
Edward Anthony Rodrigue, a twice-convicted child molester who once told police he abused dozens of boys during his 20 years as a Catholic priest, is scheduled to live in a group home in a decaying residential neighborhood along Interstate 215.
The former priest has no plans but is excited about his scheduled Jan. 25 release from a state prison near Corcoran, said his brother, Tom Rodrigue.
"I still have a lot of concerns about his release because he is a pedophile, and he'll be a pedophile until he dies," said Tom Rodrigue, who visits his brother monthly in prison. "There is no cure for it, and I just hope that he basically stays in a halfway house with other adults and he is never around kids."
Edward Anthony Rodrigue, now 69, remained behind bars Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.
Prison officials confirmed that Rodrigue is due to be paroled this month but had no details about the terms of his release. State parole officials in San Bernardino could not be reached for comment.
Ordained in 1962, Rodrigue worked in Catholic churches in Coachella, Loma Linda and Ontario, as well as in San Diego and Imperial counties, until 1981, the last year that he was assigned to work at a church. He voluntarily left the priesthood in 1992.
Rodrigue, known as Father Tony to his parishioners, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he pleaded no contest in 1998 to molesting an 11-year-old developmentally disabled boy in Highland a year earlier.
As part of that investigation, Rodrigue told detectives that he had molested five or six boys annually during his 20 years as a priest, according to a copy of a 1997 San Bernardino County sheriff's report outlining Rodrigue's responses to a polygraph test.
At least 19 men have sued the Catholic dioceses of San Diego and San Bernardino in recent years, charging that the dioceses failed to protect them from Rodrigue, attorneys said. The men accuse Rodrigue of sexually abusing them as altar boys between 1967 and 1979 at churches in Ontario, Barstow, Calexico, El Centro, Encinitas and elsewhere.
The accusers allege that diocesan leaders shuffled Rodrigue among at least 11 churches and several psychological treatment centers in 17 years, even after Rodrigue pleaded no contest in 1979 to misdemeanor child-molestation charges in Ontario.
In November, a judge allowed 23 of the 140 clergy sexual-abuse lawsuits targeting the San Bernardino and San Diego dioceses -- including four cases involving Rodrigue -- to move forward toward trial, attorneys said. The cases are among more than 850 in Southern California that had been stuck for years in failed settlement talks.
Irwin Zalkin, an attorney handling one of the Rodrigue cases set for trial, said the former priest will be a crucial witness about how diocesan officials managed priests accused of sexual misconduct.
Last summer, Rodrigue provided a sworn declaration to a federal judge that victims' attorneys hoped would show how the San Diego Diocese knowingly transferred abusive priests among parishes.
In his statement, Rodrigue said he met in 1976 with San Diego's Bishop Leo Maher, now deceased, to discuss sexual-abuse complaints lodged against Rodrigue before the priest was briefly reassigned to Our Lady of Soledad Church in Coachella. Rodrigue was then sent to a Massachusetts treatment center for troubled clergy members.
In the court papers, Rodrigue said the San Diego Diocese and, later, the San Bernardino Diocese paid for his therapy for years as he was transferred to treatment centers in Massachusetts, New Mexico and Cherry Valley in between his assignments at churches in Ontario and Loma Linda.
"He will testify if called to testify by (the accusers') attorneys," said Rodrigue's brother, Tom. "He will tell the truth about what the church knew and when the church knew it. My position, and he agrees, is that the church knew he was a pedophile from the first year he was ordained, and they kept moving him."
The San Bernardino Diocese has had no contact with Rodrigue for at least 15 years, said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, the diocesan spokesman.
Rodrigue has told his brother that he received no counseling while in prison but is open to therapy upon his release. Tom Rodrigue, who has become active in efforts to aid clergy sexual-abuse victims in recent years, said he has persuaded his brother not to try to contact his victims to apologize after his release.
"He has expressed regret, but he still doesn't fully understand the damage that he has done to these kids, who are now adults," Tom Rodrigue said, later adding: "He is still an extremely religious person. ... He also believes he won't be forgiven for the things that he did."
The former priest has been told that upon his release, he will be fitted with an ankle bracelet equipped with a GPS monitoring device so parole officials can track his movements, his brother said.
"He told me he thinks it's going to be tough," Tom Rodrigue said. "I agree with him, but it's like if you're an alcoholic, you take it one day at a time and you cope as best as possible. I keep emphasizing to him that his coping is staying away from kids."
Reach Michael Fisher at (951) 368-9470 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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